One of the most frustrating experiences a fan has is watching their team suffer through injuries. Cardinal fans know this all too well.
With Carpenter out at the start of '08 from Tommy John surgery, Adam Wainwright became the new leader of the rotation. Earning that spot with a 3.14 ERA through 13 games, Wainwright left a gaping hole when a sprained finger put him out of commission.
With Wainwright finishing his first rehab in Memphis, La Russa and Duncan are expected not to put him back into the rotation, but rather the bullpen. I wholeheartedly agree.
Dave Duncan expects Wainwright to have two more stints before being called up, making his return somewhere around late mid-August, perhaps against the Pirates. Less than a month and half left in the season, Wainwright would also be throwing under the same scenario Carpenter was if called up to be a starter.
Wainwright would have at most seven quality starts if called up as a starter, a number I don't consider enough to slide him back into the rotation.
Why? Because the last thing the Cardinals need is for another rehabbing pitcher to be placed back onto the DL. Maybe Mulder's and Carpenter's cases were different, but I don't like the fact that this has now happened to two pitchers within a month.
Based on the moves Mozeliak made before the trade deadline, it was clear that they were banking on both Wainwright and Carpenter to make an impact. While Carpenter certainly pitched well, the Cardinals will need both to have any chance for the playoffs.
Besides, where have the Cardinals needed the most help anyway? The rotation is looking better and better as Looper and Wellemeyer have improved their game. Lohse is still pitching effectively. The bullpen is that missing link to stay in the hunt.
It is clear that the Cardinals are desperately trying to find an answer for that elusive ninth inning. Why can't Adam Wainwright fill that hole for the remainder of the 2008 season?
The Cardinals have blown a league leading 26 saves. Wainwright can be more effective for the Cardinals as a closer than he can as a starter, right now. He has the experience and the tools to do it, and La Russa can start to solidify that bullpen with Wainwright at the helm.
This doesn't have a be a permanent role. Wainwright will have plenty of time to build up strength for the 2009 season to be a starter again.
Currently the Cardinals are three games back of the Brewers for the wild card. It is still manageable, but there is little room for error right now. The Brewers are hot, and they have the pitching to keep it going.
Realistically, unless the Cardinals start to catch heat they will not make the playoffs, and they won't be able to win there unless they begin to play better. They cannot compete in the the playoffs with the current shape their bullpen is in.
Chris Perez is supposed to be the closer of the future. But right now, the best thing for the Cardinals is to have Adam Wainwright close out games.