MILWAUKEE -- With acknowledgement that right-hander Adam Wainwright suffered an injury to his left Achilles coming out of the batters' box on Saturday, the Cardinals have begun to brace for the strong possibility that they won't see Wainwright pitch again this year.
An official season-ending diagnosis could come on Monday, after Wainwright undergoes an MRI on his ankle. The scan will determine the severity of the injury and give the Cardinals a better idea of the recovery timetable to follow. Most Achilles injuries required several months of rehab.
"Obviously, anytime you're dealing with an Achilles, it's not good, whether it's a strain or a tear," general manager John Mozeliak said. "Either way, he's missing time. I'll wait until he sees the doctor tomorrow before making a [definitive] statement [about how long he'll be out]. But clearly, it's not good news."
The organization has not yet announced who will replace Wainwright in the rotation and start against the Phillies on Thursday. While Marco Gonzales had been positioned to be the first starter summoned from Triple-A, his recent setback with tightness in his left pectoral muscle takes him out of the mix for this week. Jaime Garcia, who threw just 44 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday, remains at least a month away from returning.
That leaves Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons, both currently pitching in the Triple-A rotation, as immediate options. Mozeliak also listed Zach Petrick as a possibility, but Petrick started for Memphis on Sunday. Carlos Villanueva could make a spot start, but it did not appear as if the Cardinals were leaning in that direction.
"I just know that we have different guys who are ready to take whatever responsibility comes, whatever role comes," manager Mike Matheny said. "When I say we need someone to step up, there's going to be an opportunity for someone to start. And there's going to be some opportunities for leadership, too. Even during this DL time, I know Adam is still going to be around. But it's different every time you take someone away or add someone. We have to make sure that things are getting taken care of, work is getting done and leadership is there. We have all the pieces to make that happen."
With Gonzales expected back on the mound soon and Garcia progressing as he recovers from a shoulder injury, the Cardinals believe their rotation options are only going to increase in the coming weeks. As a result, Mozeliak downplayed the urgency to go look for immediate help from outside the organization.
"That's not how we operate," he said.
Finding starting pitching help in April isn't easy. The more likely scenario is that the organization lets things play out for several weeks before reevaluating whether it's necessary to explore the trade market.
"It is a test," Matheny said. "We're going to let the guys go back out there and play. They've had a little time to think about this. The response and the answer is we knew that some tests were going to come. This is a big one that we're getting early, but we're going to see what we're made of. It's a test that, I think, all these guys have been through at some level before. And to me it's an opportunity for somebody to stand up, step up and take the bull by the horns."