Adam Wainwright is one of the top pitchers in baseball. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/bk1bennett/Flickr)

St. Louis Cardinals 6-foot-7 pitching ace Adam Wainwright has more than just elbow stiffness, according to Yahoo! Sports. The right-hander will be out for all of 2011 and some of 2012 while rehabilitating from elbow surgery. Combined with the news that the team was unable to get star slugger Albert Pujols to sign an extension, 2011 could turn out to be a long season for the redbirds.

With Adam Wainwright down, St. Louis becomes a tough sell to Albert Pujols

The St. Louis Cardinals have confirmed reports that Adam Wainwright’s elbow injury will require Tommy John surgery, known in medicine as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction. It involves the replacement of the damaged elbow ligament with a tendon taken from either the forearm, hamstring, knee or foot. “Tommy John” refers to former Major League pitcher Tommy John, who in 1974 was the first professional athlete to undergo the then-experimental operation.

Adam Wainwright’s prognosis was confirmed Thursday at the St. Louis Cardinals’ training facility in Jupiter, Fla. The 29-year-old pitcher relies heavily upon the curveball, so full elbow ligament flexibility is essential. Without Wainwright’s Cy Young-caliber pitching (39 wins over the past two seasons) in the Cardinals rotation in 2011, the team will rely heavily on contributions from starting pitchers Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook. Team manager Tony La Russa told the media he doesn’t expect the Cardinals to fill the vacant spot in the five-man rotation via trades or free agency.

“The answer is here,” said La Russa, indicating Lance Lynn, P. J. Walters, Ian Snell and Kyle McClellan are all viable candidates to fill Wainwright’s slot.

St. Louis could be out of contention by July

If the St. Louis Cardinals find it impossible to replace Adam Wainwright in 2011, the chance that Albert Pujols will re-sign with the team shrinks considerably. As future Hall-of-Famer Pujols is maintaining the no-trade provisions of his contract, it will be difficult for the team to trade him mid-season. Pujols’ departure would also be a public relations nightmare, a clear message to fans that the team is throwing in the towel for 2011. The Cardinals’ only hope is that Pujols will be willing to drop his no-trade clause so they can trade him to a team that will offer the Cardinals maximum value and be willing to sign the 31-year-old Pujols to the 10-year, $30 million per year contract he wants.

Sources

Fox Sports: http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/Adam-Wainwright-injury-St-Louis-Cardinals-tommy-john-possible-022311

Wikipedia entry for Tommy John surgery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_John_surgery

Yahoo! Sports: http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=txcardinalswainwrighto

Adam Wainwright gives his best effort

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