Major League Baseball's Opening Day is in one week, and the presumption was that St. Louis Cardinals great Adam Wainwright would be on the mound against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays next Thursday afternoon, but that will not be the case as the 41-year-old will miss several weeks with a groin injury suffered with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic. It's now likely that Miles Mikolas will get the call against the Jays.
Wainwright wasn't hurt while pitching. The right-hander threw four innings of one-run ball in the Americans' semifinal win over Cuba on Sunday but then was injured Tuesday apparently while lifting weights. The injury is expected to sideline him for "several weeks," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol told MLB.com. Marmol confirmed Wainwright was going to be named the Cardinals' Opening Day starter.
Two other highly notable players suffered major injuries at the WBC. New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz will miss most (if not all) of the 2023 season, and Houston Astros second baseman and former AL MVP Jose Altuve will miss two to three months. The injuries suffered by the two All-Stars had some hot and bothered about playing the WBC in the spring, but MLB already has declared the event will be back in March 2026 and won't be moved. This year's WBC was a rousing success otherwise.
There was some talk Wainwright might retire after the 2022 season alongside fellow St. Louis greats Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, but Wainwright opted to return for one more year– he has said that 2023, his 18th MLB season, will be his last. Last year, Wainwright went 11-12 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts, the first losing season of his career in which he made at least 20 starts. He claimed he "ruined" a good season by winning just twice over his final six starts with a 7.22 ERA. Wainwright didn't pitch at all in the NL Wild Card series loss to Philadelphia. He blamed that poor closing stretch on a "dead arm."
Wainwright has 195 career victories and has said he hoped to get to at least 213 so he could at least tie Hall of Famer and close friend John Smoltz, who finished with 213 (and finished his career as a closer). Bob Gibson holds the Cardinals record with 251 wins, and that's probably never being broken. No. 2 is Jesse Haines with 210. DraftKings has Wainwright with an over/under of 10.5 wins this season, but that prop will presumably be taken off the board.
While Wainwright has never won a Cy Young, he's a three-time All-Star, led the National League in wins twice (2009, '13), won two Gold Gloves and even a Silver Slugger Award (2017), although pitchers no longer bat. He finished in the top seven of NL Cy Young Award voting five times. Wainwright has a career WAR of 42.4 per Baseball Reference, which is No. 161 among pitchers. Looking for a pitcher with a comparable WAR in Cooperstown? Jack Morris at 43.6, although Morris won 254 games and was the 1991 World Series MVP.
Jake Woodford will be Wainwright's rotation replacement, but he's surely not starting Opening Day – Wainwright's six Opening Day starts are second in Cardinals history behind Gibson's 10. The logical choice would be the 34-year-old Mikolas, who had a 3.29 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 33 outings last year but was 12-13 due to a lack of run support. He also pitched for Team USA in the WBC. Jack Flaherty could also be a candidate for the assignment.
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