The first significant injury of 2011 Major League Baseball spring training happened this week, as Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright suffered what will likely be a season-ending elbow injury.
Clinical Notes - Adam Wainwright's Injury
Wednesday February 23rd, 2011
According to Will Carroll of SportsIllustrated.com, sources indicate that Wainwright suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) and appears to be headed for reconstructive Tommy John elbow surgery. Naturally, the team wants to have Wainwright's arm expertly examined before declaring his 2011 season over, but if early reports are accurate, he will miss all of the current baseball season and possibly more. He has departed Cardinals spring training in Florida and gone to St. Louis to have team doctors provide an official diagnosis.
Wainwright has been the number two starter for the Cardinals (behind Chris Carpenter) since his first full year back in 2007. He had his breakthrough season in 2009, however, when he went 19-8 with a 2.63 ERA and 212 strikeouts in a National League-best 233 innings. He won a Gold Glove Award that year and finished third in Cy Young Award balloting. Last season, he made his first All-Star Game and finished second in NL Cy Young Award voting after going 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 230.1 innings.
This injury is a significant blow to the Cardinals, a team that is already experiencing some turmoil with Albert Pujols' impending free agency and his declaration that he will not negotiate a new deal until season's end. Wainwright's rotation spot could be adopted by off-season acquisition Ian Snell (a former 14-game winner for the Pittsburgh Pirates), an in-house option like P.J. Walters or former first-round pick Lance Lynn, or the team may look to acquire one of the remaining free agent pitchers like Kevin Millwood.
Regardless of who ends up in the Cardinals rotation, it's highly unlikely that anyone will be able to replicate the kind of success that Wainwright had in 2009 and 2010. If early reports are accurate and he ends up on the shelf for the entire year, it could be a very long and difficult season for St. Louis and their fans.
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