Cardinals fans – and management – can breathe a sigh of relief, their ace is on his way back.
Adam Wainwright played catch yesterday for the first time since undergoing right elbow surgery in October to repair damaged cartilage.
The Cardinals’ ace reportedly only made 30 throws – all from a limited distance – but was reportedly encouraged by the results.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch land some feedback from Wainwright after the throwing session:
“There was no pain. That’s pretty good. That’s good as far as signs go.”
This was the first step on the road to recovery for Wainwright. It’s expected that he’ll begin a daily throwing routine soon and will be working off the mound by the time St. Louis pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month.
Wainwright, 33, should be on track to pitch Opening Day assuming there are no setbacks in his recovery.
This is great news for a Cardinals team that has relied very heavily on Wainwright in recent years. Accounting for his work in the postseason, Wainwright has racked up 519.2 innings on the mound over the last two seasons – far and away the most in baseball over that time span.
Last season, the right-hander went 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, and a 179/50 K/BB ratio in 32 starts, but he didn’t look like himself for much of the season’s second-half and postseason as he dealt with consistent elbow pain.
St. Louis will need a healthy Wainwright in 2015 after seeing starters Justin Masterson, Joe Kelly, and Shelby Miller leave via free agency and trades since late last season.
The club’s current rotation figures to include Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez; a group that has plenty of additional question marks.
Lackey, 36, was mediocre after arriving in St. Louis in a trade deadline deal with the Boston Red Sox, but there was no way the club wasn’t going to exercise his 2015 option which – thanks to a contract provision with Boston – only pays Lackey the Major League veteran’s minimum salary.
Wacha, 23, made a splash when he debuted in 2013, but missed a large chunk of time in 2014 with a stress fracture in his right shoulder. Results came back clean on an MRI in October, but the club will keep a close eye on his progress in camp.
Martinez, 23, has struggled thus far at the big league level, looking much better out of the bullpen than as a starter. The club has a lot of confidence in the former top prospect, but will want to see a step forward in 2015.
Should Wainwright or any of the others falter, the club would turn to oft-injured right-hander Jaime Garcia or young lefty Marco Gonzales.
The Cardinals have been linked to top free agent starters Max Schezer and James Shields on multiple occasions this winter, but at this stage in the off-season, those rumblings seem like nothing more than rumors.
A healthy Wainwright is a great sign for the Cardinals as they aim for a third-consecutive National League Central pennant and a fifth-consecutive playoff berth.