St. Louis Cardinals: Ace Adam Wainwright Injures Elbow, Could Miss Entire Season

James Stewart-MeudtCorrespondent IIFebruary 23, 2011

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 16:  Pitcher Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws during spring training at Roger Dean Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

According to multiple reports, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright injured his elbow on Monday and will return to St. Louis to be examined by team doctors.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says he believes it is a "significant injury" and that, "things do not look encouraging."

According to the New York Daily News, Mozeliak revealed, "there is a problem with the ligament...it doesn't look good."

Wainwright, who finished second in NL Cy Young voting last season, missed his final start last season because of an injury to the same elbow.

At the time, Wainwright claimed he had slept on that arm, and when he woke up the arm was numb, and instead of waiting for the feeling to subside, he flung his arm outward, causing the injury. We can't assume Monday's injury is the same injury from last season, but it is in the same spot.

An examination in November showed no structural damage to the elbow, but Wainwright had injured the same ligament in 2004.

Wainwright went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA and 213 strikeouts last season.

With Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the middle of their lineup and Chris Carpenter at the top of the rotation along with Wainwright, it wasn't hard to pick the Cardinals as a serious contender in the NL Central this season.

But without Wainwright, the Cardinals' chances are severely diminished.

Wainwright has pitched 200 innings or more in three of the last four seasons. An injury to a ligament in his finger limited him to just 132 innings in 2008.

Along with Carpenter and Wainwright, the Cardinals have promising starter Jaime Garcia, who posted a 2.70 ERA in 28 starts last season, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Loshe.

But if Wainwright's injury requires Tommy John surgery, which Mozeliak would not rule out, it will leave the Cardinals' starting rotation in shambles.

An injured starting pitcher is never easy to replace. The Cardinals may need to replace not only a starter but a 20-win, No. 2 starter.