St. Louis Cardinals: Wainwright’s move to 60-day DL may signal end of an era

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 09: Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks off the field at the end of the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 09: Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks off the field at the end of the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

As painful as it is to admit, Father Time is an unbeatable foe, and Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals may have finally admitted after sending him to to the 60-day disabled list to make room for the addition of Steven Baron following Carson Kelly’s injury.

As the name suggests, being placed on the 60-day DL means a minimum of two months are sat out, meaning the earliest that Adam Wainwright can return to the St. Louis Cardinals major league roster now is immediately after the All-Star break.

Under normal circumstances, the timing seems quite convenient, with the premise that he would return right after the All-Star Break, arguably the best time to reintegrate into a team’s system following a long injury stint. However, we still have no legitimate idea how long Wainwright is going to be out, or when a timeline will be planned.

On top of that, there will be one major addition that will presumably make it even more difficult for Wainwright to enter the Cardinal rotation: Alex Reyes. Reyes was moved to the 60-day DL on opening day in the move for Greg Holland, which means he is eligible to return before the beginning of June.

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The St. Louis Cardinals have been adamant that they view Reyes as a starter, and he has shown the electric stuff that made him the Cardinals’ number one prospect for several years. He hasn’t allowed a run over his first two starts, one in Single A and one in Advanced-A. In those 8.1 innings, he has only allowed five hits and walked two batters while picking up 18 strikeouts. He demonstrated that he can still hit triple digits on his fastball as a starter.

That alone may solidify a spot for Reyes. With the addition of Reyes and the eventual return of Carlos Martinez, it seems likely that Wainwright’s time in the starting rotation is over.

That’s not to say he is done as a pitcher. I know plenty of my fellow contributors at Redbird Rants have advocated for Wainwright to make a return to the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen in order to conserve his arm and protect his aging body, and this seems like the perfect time to do it.

Based on his comments following the game in which he suffered the injury, Wainwright said that he intends to “be a force down the stretch” (via St. Louis Post Dispatch), so it seems he has every intention of pitching.

That being said, Wainwright has shown a noticeable decline since his Achilles injury, and there is word spreading that he might not have fully healed from the injury.

If this is true, he instead somewhat modifying his delivery to compensate for the imbalance in the base. This results in an overtaxing of the arm, leading to arm and upper body injuries. Another example of this progression of injuries in an older starting pitcher is in Clayton Kershaw, who is dealing with bicep problems after compensating for his hip injuries.

Nerve problems are nothing to mess with either. There is no need for Wainwright to overexert himself and put himself in a position to put himself in a long-term health scare as Chris Carpenter did towards the end of his career. For me, Wainwright’s long-term health comes first,  his performance comes second, and pride isn’t a factor unless the Cards are out of playoff contention.

That being said, considering his ability to perform in short spurts when healthy, his previous experience, and overall pitching demeanor make a Wainwright move to the bullpen seem ideal if he returns at all. He was one of the best pitchers I have ever watched with men on base, and that toughness and grit will be a valued addition to a bullpen where that is, for the most part, missing.

With an aging, injured pitcher whose performance has been steadily declining, there’s no telling when he’ll come back. This move to the 60-day DL simply confirms it will be quite a long time until we see Adam Wainwright back on the mound.

For me, this is a sign that Wainwright’s body just can’t keep up with the strain being a starter in the MLB brings, and that it’s time for Wainwright to begin his quiet and dignified fade into the sunset. He might have to do it out of the ‘pen.

If we truly have seen the end of Adam Wainwright’s tenure as a starter, it was certainly a long and accomplished one. It’s not about his legacy anymore, it’s about his happiness.

If he is really happy starting, and can do so somewhat effectively to finish the year, then by all means let him. But if our last memory of Adam Wainwright is one final 9th, one final K, and one final ovation against the Cubs on September 30 in front of a sellout crowd at Busch, then that would be just as special.

Next: Love letter to Wainwright

Do you think Wainwright will be able to return to the rotation? Have we seen the last of Waino on the mound? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.