For years, the St. Louis Cardinals have been known for having one of the deepest groups of starting pitching talent in the league. This is a huge reason for their success, among other things. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright were two premiere aces atop the Cardinals’ rotation, but they seemingly alternated injured seasons. Because the roster had such immense pitching depth, they were able to persevere, winning 2 World Series titles and 3 National League pennants since Wainwright’s rookie season in 2005.
Wainwright sat out the entirety of 2011 after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in spring training and undergoing the all-too-common Tommy John surgery. Since recovering from surgery, he has been a dominant workhorse, throwing 213.2 and 276.2 innings in 2012 and 2013, respectively (playoffs included). In 2013, he was able to keep his ERA below 3.00 by striking out more than 8 batters per 9 innings, and walking less than 1.50 per 9 innings, and tossed 5 complete games. If it wasn’t for Clayton Kershaw’s slightly more dominating season, Wainwright would have a Cy Young Award on his mantle.
The Cardinals announced last week that Wainwright has been experiencing a sore elbow and will skip his scheduled start on Monday. Initially, this was alarming news for baseball fans, especially given the history of Wainwright’s elbow. However, an MRI was performed, and it was discovered that there was no structural damage to Wainwright’s UCL. He was simply dealing with some tendonitis (Link: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24588339/adam-wainwright-to-miss-one-start-with-elbow-tendinitis ). Tendonitis is something that most professional pitchers deal with at some point in their career. Often times, swelling of the tendons will occur after their first several times throwing in the Spring, as the tendons have been less utilized over the off-season. However, many pitchers develop swelling over the course of a long season. Wainwright has already thrown 100 innings in 2014, and his arm most likely needs a break.
The Cardinals are being a bit vague about this injury. General Manager, John Mozeliak, described the injury to be similar to tennis elbow. Tennis elbow affects the lateral side of the elbow, as opposed to the ulnar side, so if he’s implying that Wainwright’s injury is a lateral one, this is a positive development. Mozeliak, however, is not a doctor, and it can be perilous to take too much away from what a general manager says about medical conditions. Mozeliak could simply be referring to the fact that tennis elbow is another injury affecting the elbow joint. After all, his job is not to read MRI results to the public as much as it is to keep his fans thinking positive thoughts.
That said, there is a big takeaway from something else that Mozeliak said. He told reporters that Wainwright will miss one start. This, more than anything else that has been reported, indicates that Wainwright’s elbow discomfort is not serious. He will simply get some much needed rest and return shortly, once the swelling decreases. It seems that Wainwright avoided a much more serious injury for now, but given his injury history and his heavy workload, his elbow will be one to watch going forward.