The way things have been coming together for Cardinals co-ace Adam Wainwright is extremely encouraging.
But, when it seems most pitchers hit the wall at 160 innings or so in their first year back after Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, Wainwright might be nearing the end of his rope just as things are getting interesting in the Birds' chase for the NL Central crown.
The Nationals have announced that they would shut down their young ace, Steven Strasburg, to protect his arm even though they're in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Wainwright has hurled 145 1/3 innings -- which would appear to leave him about two more decent starts -- with a little bit less than two seasons left to play.
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If he's starting to wear down, Wainwright has a funny way of showing it. He's done his best work in the last month, compiling a 3-1 record and a 1.79 ERA in five starts. In that span on 36 1/3 innings, Wainwright has allowed only 27 hits and he's struck out 35 while issuing only five free passes. Opponents are batting .206 against him.
Wainwright was 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA at the All-Star Break. Since then he's 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA.
But the Cardinals seem to be at least mildly concerned about the issue. They announced over the weekend that they would not take advantage of the off day on the schedule today and another next Monday to move Wainwright up in the rotation. That's significant because the Birds play the two teams ahead of them -- the Pirates and the Reds -- nine times in the next two weeks. Wainwright is likely only going to pitch in one of those games. Instead, they'll push everyone back a day to give Wainwright a couple of extra days off.
On the bright side, Wainwright looks as if he's made a full recovery from his surgery and -- if Chris Carpenter can return healthy in 2012 -- they ought to have a pretty formidable top of the rotation.
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