Spring training has only been underway for a couple of days but already the 2015 season is beginning to flash before St. Louis Cardinals fans' eyes.
Ace starting pitcher, one of the players the Redbirds could least afford to lose, will return to St. Louis to have a specialist examine him in relation to an abdominal injury.
The team is downplaying the injury. But doesn't it always downplay injuries? Hopefully this doesn't become the next Brad Penny is just going to miss a few days with a back ouchie or Chris Carpenter could pitch if it was the seventh game of the World Series. But, since its just spring training we're going to play it safe and give him a little bit extra rest.
The cost of a potential trade for Cole Hamels, should Wainwright's injury prove to be the lingering sort, will rise exponentially above its already exorbitant asking price.
It's good news that the Cardinals claim Wainwright can throw even with the injury because it would seem his elbow and shoulder are fine. But it would be beyond reckless to let him risk hurting himself by pitching with compromised mechanics if he's got an abdominal injury. So even something relatively benign like a hernia, appendicitis or something similar could put him on the shelf for an extended stay.
If that's the case, the Cardinals would have to go with John Lackey as their number one starter with Lance Lynn falling in at number three. Their next-highest ranking pitcher is Michael Wacha -- if he's healthy. A big if. That leaves inexperienced starters Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales to duke it out for the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation with The Mother of All Injury Prone Pitchers, Jaime Garcia.
This is why I wanted to see the Cardinals spend some of their dry power on a front end starter this off-season. They not only need an insurance policy for the fact that three of their top four starters have a history of elbow and/or shoulder problems. They also need a second big-game pitcher to match up with the hurlers of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants should they make it to the post season.
Hopefully this Wainwright issue doesn't turn out to be anything significant. But this isn't 2011 when the Redbirds had the depth -- and a co-ace in Carpenter -- to handle the load when Wainwright blew out his elbow.
If it wasn't for Carpenter filling the role of an ace and putting the team on his back for the stretch run and the playoffs, that miraculous finish never would have happened.