St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright pitches in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010 in St. Louis.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam) By Tom Gannam
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, right, delivers to San Diego Padres' Aaron Cunningham during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
(KMOV)-- After falling well short of expectations in 2010, 2011 was supposed to be a redemption year for the Cardinals. They weren’t quiet during off season, in fact very busy, making their biggest splash acquiring slugger Lance Berkman. Even though the National League Central Division got better, it seemed the Cardinals were primed to get back on track contending for a division crown; but that road to redemption just got a whole lot rockier now that the Birds’clear cut number one starter Adam Wainwright will miss the entire 2011 season.
The Cardinals organization usually tries to be positive when it comes to dealing out information regarding injuries, but even they know the severity of Wainwright’s arm injury. Manager Tony La Russa called it “a huge hit.” But maybe Cardinals Chairman, Bill DeWitt Jr. said it best when he told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “You prepare for the worst, and hope for the best, that’s about all there is to say.” So just how big of a loss is this for St. Louis? Well you don’t have to be a genius to realize that Wainwright’s injury just might have cost the Cardinals a N.L. Central crown.
Here’s how the starting rotation looks right now: Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, and potentially St. Louis native Kyle McClellan; by no means a terrible rotation, but certainly a questionable one. Although the 35 year-old Carpenter has been a work horse for the Cardinals and certainly a dominate pitcher when healthy, I see him landing on the disabled list more than once this season. Garcia is coming off a great rookie season, and if this team is going to stick around in the division, from a pitching perspective, it will be because Garcia avoids a sophomore slump. I was glad the Cardinals brought back Jake Westbrook. He is known as a ground ball pitcher but struck out more batters than I expected last year. But now that Waino is out, Westbrook will most likely be a three starter and not the fourth; he’ll be counted on a lot this season, can he produce consistently? According to baseballreference.com Kyle Lohse is set to make nearly $12 million in 2011, so I don’t need to tell you that the Cardinals need much more than what they got from Lohse last year (4-8, 6.55 ERA in 18 games, 92 innings). Lohse has dealt with injuries the past two seasons which has caused him land on and off the disabled list. And now the fifth starter, which that job could go to Kyle McClellan. The right hander used to be a starting pitcher earlier in his career so it’s not like McClellan would be entering uncharted waters. I say you give him a shot, if he doesn’t work out, then you adjust, but I believe McClellan can have success as a number five starter, and if he does get the job, replacing him in the bullpen won’t be easy, the Hazelwood West High School product produced a career low 2.27 ERA in over 75 innings in 2010.
Bottom line, because of Wainwright’s absence, everyone needs to step up in 2011, from the manger, the run producers, the defense, even the front office if things aren’t going well on the field. And the fact is, the Cardinals know that, but the question is will they be able to do it?