Adam Wainwright is currently on a rehab assignment at Class AAA Memphis. What is he doing?
Being groomed as a reliever.
I wish I could say.
Let's break down the current rotation of Chris Caprenter, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper, and Joel Pineiro.
I am going to apply innings to each starter. Carpenter is the ace of the staff and should give you, theoritically, seven innings. Kyle Lohse is the number three, and he too should give you seven. Wellemeyer and Looper are your number four starters, so they should each give six innings. Pineiro is the fifth starter and will give you five innings.
Wait a minute? Where's the number two?
He's being groomed for the bullpen.
Let's really look at the numbers.
In a perfect world, a pitching staff will throw 45 innings every five days (otherwise, a full turn through the rotation). A bullpen should throw no more than 12 innings every five days.
Your closer should throw three innings, lefty specialist throws an inning, and the righty specialist should throw one and one-third inning. That's five and one-third innings from three pitchers, leaving six and two-thirds for four pitchers (assuming you have a seven man bullpen).
Now, let's configure that number to the current rotation:
45 - 7 - 7 - 6 - 6 - 5 = 14
14 - 3 - 1 - 1 1/3 = 8 2/3
That's a difference right there. The perfect world is in shambles with a rotation that throws 31 innings over five days. With having those two less innings from the rotation, the bullpen has to throw two extra innings (obviously).
The problem is, those four remaining bullpen pitchers have to throw 2, 2 1/3, 2, 2 1/3 respectively. That wears down your bullpen.
That's the problem the Cardinals have had all year. Their rotation has been averaging 31 innings every five days. That's why the bullpen is so worn and torn.
So why is Wainwright going to the bullpen? Wainwright is the number two and throws seven innings. Replace Pineiro with Wainwright, and the rotation's innings go up to 33.
Oh, the magic number: 33 innings.
Suddenly, the bullpen is throwing two less innings. Add in that one of the four remaining pitchers is the long man in the bullpen (Brad Thompson), he'll eat four of those innings every five days.
Maybe the best way for the bullpen to rebound and stay sharp is to throw Wainwright every fifth day, eating innings.