Wainwright on track to be Cards' Opening Day starter

Wainwright on track to be Cards' Opening Day starter

JUPITER, Fla. -- Barring any setbacks or injury, veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright will be the Cardinals' Opening Day starter on April 3 at Pittsburgh, manager Mike Matheny said before Sunday's workout.

"I'd say it's pretty likely," Matheny said. "He's our guy. I mean, there's no doubt about it. We've got to see how the spring goes, any setbacks, any things that happen that takes us off our normal course. But this guy's the leader of our staff. He means so much to our club in a lot of regards. He leads well."

Wainwright missed most of the last five months of the 2015 season, after tearing his left Achilles tendon while batting during a game on April 25 at Milwaukee. He returned on Sept. 30 and threw an inning of relief against the Pirates, allowing a run on two hits with a strikeout.

He was 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in seven appearances last season, four of them starts prior to the injury. He made six cameos in relief upon his return from an injury that was supposed to keep him out for as long as 12 months -- three of them in the postseason against the Cubs, as the Cards lost their National League Division Series in four games.

Wainwright should help Cards

Wainwright, 34, also missed the 2011 season after Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Even without Wainwright in the rotation last season, the Cardinals won the NL Central for the third year in a row.

Most recently, Wainwright was 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA in 32 starts in 2014 and 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 34 starts in '13.

All that adds up to the right-hander getting the ball on Opening Day.

"We're always quick to point out that Waino is our ace, and that usually entails throwing that first game," Matheny said. "Let's just watch how it all goes."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.