John Mozeliak On Adam Wainwright Injury “We’re still gonna play baseball. We’re not going to fold up the tent and go away.”February 24, 2011 – 7:00 am by Steven Cuce
There will be no-self pity party in St.Louis according to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak after the devastating news that star pitcher Adam Wainwright will most likely need season-ending Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his injured right elbow. The official decision may not come for another twenty-four hours, but the chances look very slim right now for the Cardinals ace. This has been anything but an ideal start for St.Louis here in the early goings of spring training. First John Mozeliak had to deal with the Albert Pujols situation, where the star slugger refused to negotiate a new contract (once spring training started) being in the last year of his deal. Pujols will most likely command the most expensive contract in baseball since he is deemed the best player in the game offensively. That contract will be in the neighborhood of 10-years and $300 million dollars. There is a big-time fear in Cardinals nation that a deal will not get taken care of by season’s end and Albert may indeed land with the rival Chicago Cubs.
Now with the grim news of Adam Wainwright’s condition, manager Tony La Russa must dig deep and find a way to steer his team through these tough waters. The Cardinals will look internally for a fifth starter. Some of those options include Kyle McClellan, P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, Ian Snell and Raul Valdez. Current starters such as Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse will have to step their games up to help fill the void. One thing is for certain: this year has certainly not been anything like what the Cardinals would have expected back in the winter.
John Mozeliak joined KSLG in St.Louis with the Sports Edge to discuss the Adam Wainwright injury news, talk us through Monday’s bullpen session where the injury occurred, how the Cardinals could not have prevented the Wainwright injury in the fall with surgery, internally who can step up to fill the void lost by Wainwright and Tony La Russa not using the Wainwright injury as an excuse.
We wish we didn’t have to start on a somber note with the Adam Wainwright injury news. You just have to move on and have someone fill the void internally huh?
“Well I think there’s a couple of ways to look at this. One is it’s just moves everyone up a slot, so in terms of [Chris] Carpenter, [Jaime] Garcia, [Jake] Westbrook, and [Kyle] Lohse the expectation there now have to be the one through four. We do have to backfill for a fifth. In terms of looking at this as if we can go out and find a Wainwright like replacement at this time, I mean that is just not going to happen. The other thing that I think gives us a little comfort is one of the things we did try to do is just really change the dynamic of this club and our hope is that we are going to have a more offensive club, so in time maybe we can outslug them a little bit too.”
Take us through Monday because no one saw this coming. It happened during a bullpen session is that correct?
“Let me take you back basically to the end of last season first and at that point he was dealing with what is described as a forearm flexor strain to a muscle, so he had an MRI. Certainly the ligament showed that it was compromised, but it wasn’t too much dramatically different to back in 2004 when he first experienced the sprain, so then in November we had another MRI just to see if he was moving forward or backward. There was a lot of concern up to that point. We had the MRI it looked like things were improving and then he progressed with his offseason program. He was really feeling good. You know candidly looked strong, healthy, all of his bullpen sessions up to this live batting practice on Monday were outstanding. Even that was outstanding from what I was told about it. The third to final pitch he threw felt a little tweak, but didn’t think much of it, left the ballpark, went home. A few hours later he started to experience some stiffness and discomfort, contacted our medical staff at that time, Greg Hauck, our head trainer went over to his house to evaluate him. He was not really encouraged based on the evaluation obviously then took an MRI yesterday and it did show some parallels that we saw at the end of the 2010 season. Our head physician will be looking at that now actually in an hour or so and I should have a better read on it, but I didn’t want to come out here and talk about this this morning in terms of letting a lot of hope in this one. It just doesn’t look like it’s going to have a great outcome. We’re just going to have to address it as is.”
To answer those fans who said why didn’t you get Wainwright injury corrected in the fall with surgery? There wasn’t really anything that could have been done right?
“Right I mean historically he has had a compromised ligament, but many pitchers do. Many pitchers pitch with it. I will say though you are vulnerable to ultimately blowing it out more so than a pitcher that does not have a pre-exisitng strain, but with that said, I mean you go back to 2004 and what Adam’s [Wainwright] done, the success he’s had, it’s not like something that we regret not having him cut on earlier at any time. Obviously even if he had surgery back in October he still would have been lost for 2011, so it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to look back there and say well why didn’t you do it sooner.”
Internally who can step up to fill this void in your mind? Is Kyle McClellan a good fit in your mind?
“I certainly think he’s one of them. I’m not prepared today to say exactly how it will be filled. The one positive for us is that we do have a lot of split squads early and so the way the schedule works we are going to be able to give a couple of players an opportunity to start and I think our approach is really going to be to see how these guys perform. Clearly you mention McClellan in the sense of it would seem like he could handle the role should he get that opportunity. We certainly think seeing P.J. Walters this year, he’s going to be a lot different than he was a year ago just giving what he’s been through. We also signed Bautista as insurance just in case we needed a starter, Lance Lynn, Ian Snell, Raul Valdez. They’re all going to get looks. Our hope is that we’re going to get one of these guys to fill that slot and give us creditable innings.”
Tony La Russa will not use this an excuse will he?
“No I think you know Tony takes a lot of shots in St.Louis, but I was saying to Mr.DeWitt this morning you know these are the situations where you need a man like Tonybecause you’re right, he’s not going to use this as a crutch or an excuse. Candidly he’s going to use this as a way to motivate this club. Everybody had the pity party yesterday because we told the club yesterday of the likelihood of this. They are over it. They are bummed. Adam was one of the most popular guys in our clubhouse, but they also know come April, we’re still gonna play baseball, so we’re not going to fold up the tent and go away. There’s a lot of pride in that clubhouse and frankly a lot of talent.”