Adam Wainwright's absence has a silver lining for the St. Louis Cardinals
The injury to St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright could eventually benefit both him and his replacement.
Adam Wainwright's highly anticipated final season with the St. Louis Cardinals will be delayed after the 41-year-old right-hander suffered a groin strain after working out upon his return from the World Baseball Classic. Reports say Wainwright will likely be out for around a month.
Wainwright was expected to be the team's fifth starter this season and adeptly eat innings. With him on the injured list, it looks as though Spring Training standout Jake Woodford is the leading candidate to replace him. Woodford has a 2.04 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 17.2 innings so far, and he has displayed an increase in velocity as well as a sharper slider. With only one current starter (Steven Matz) signed for the next season, this should be an opportunity for Woodford to show that he can force his way into the rotation for next season.
If Woodford shows this kind of production in the regular season, the Cardinals could find it difficult to replace him when Wainwright comes back. But with little value in the bullpen given his lack of velocity, Wainwright fits best in the rotation. This period to recover could help Wainwright produce down the stretch.
For Wainwright to prepare to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, he had to ramp up much faster than normal, That will put extra stress on any pitcher, but it's especially risky for someone of Wainwright's age. Fans will recall the litany of injuries he has experienced since the end of last season: A line drive hit him in the leg last year, affecting his delivery; his glutes weren't "firing" properly shortly before Spring Training began; and he later burned his hand while making breakfast for his kids.
With everything affecting Wainwright physically, this should serve as a reset; he will be able to go at a pace he's more used to when it comes to recovering and preparing for his return to the mound. This in turn could bring back some of the velocity he lost early in Spring Training and in the World Baseball Classic.
Woodford's spot in the bullpen, which was likely in long relief, is now up for grabs, with Andre Pallante possibly getting the first crack at it. That, combined with Wilking Rodriguez's shoulder injury, will likely free up a spot for JoJo Romero or, if they want to go with another left-hander, Genesis Cabrera or Packy Naughton.
This injury, while unfortunate, isn't going to break the team. Woodford in the rotation will most likely perform better than Wainwright would early in the season given his maladies, and it will also let the Cardinals see what they have in a possible 2024 starter. Wainwright's injury shook up the roster, but maybe not for the worse.