Cardinals opening day starter Adam Wainwright will instead begin year on injured list

Tribune Content Agency

JUPITER, Fla. — A few hours before being named officially as the Cardinals’ opening day starter for his final season in the majors, Adam Wainwright instead will be placed on the injured list with a groin strain sustained during the World Baseball Classic.

Wainwright and right-handed reliever Wilking Rodriguez will open the season on the IL and miss the next several weeks, manager Oliver Marmol announced Thursday morning.

Wainwright will halt his throwing program and delay his season debut by as much as a month as he likely needs to work through a rehab assignment to build arm strength and stamina once the groin injury subsides. He had scans taken of the groin Wednesday afternoon to determine the extent of damage.

“I don’t have a real timetable yet, other than he strained his groin and we all have an idea of what typically means,” Marmol told reporters in the dugout at Roger Dean Stadium. “We’ll continue to evaluate over the next few days, but no hard timetable at the moment. … There is a spot in the rotation now open, and we’re going to have to sit down and make sure that we’re not missing anything that goes into that.”

Marmol confirmed Wainwright was going to be named the Cardinals’ opening day starter for next Thursday at Busch Stadium against Toronto.

Wainwright, 41, has said this will be his final season before retiring.

The Cardinals have not finalized who will replace Wainwright in the rotation. Jake Woodford is the most likely candidate after an assertive spring training that won him a spot on the opening day roster and displayed all of the improvements the Cardinals asked from him during the offseason.

That would ease the Cardinals’ decisions in the bullpen, too.

Wainwright injured his groin while working out in the weight room at loanDepot Park in Miami on Tuesday a few hours before he and Team USA faced Japan in the World Baseball Classic championship game.

He threw a bullpen session there that day and told a Post-Dispatch reporter that it was the “most important bullpen of the season.” He says that before every bullpen session. The injury came later, apparently, though it was not clear the severity of it until Wainwright was evaluated by Cardinals trainers late Wednesday and again Thursday.

Wainwright won both of the games he started for Team USA.

Players who participated in the World Baseball Classic are covered by an insurance policy purchased for the tournament in case of injuries during that time. The New York Mets, for example, will have that insurance to cover Edwin Diaz’s salary for this season after his knee tore apart after closing out a Puerto Rico victory in pool play.

The insurance will cover a prorated portion of a player’s salary during the time missed due to injury.

Rodriguez, who had a solid camp and was pushing for a spot in the bullpen, felt some soreness in his right shoulder after a recent outing. He was prescribed a few days off but did not feel the shoulder responded when tried to throw a game.

He will have a week of treatment and no throwing.

Rodriguez was the Cardinals’ Rule 5 pick off the minor-league roster of the New York Yankees, Thursday’s opponent at Roger Dean Stadium. Since he is beginning the year on the IL, the Cardinals do not need to offer him back to the Yankees, and he will be eligible for a rehab assignment in the minors without first having to be passed through waivers.

Also on Thursday morning, the Cardinals optioned Anthony Misiewicz to Class AAA Memphis’ roster. Misiewicz was one of the lefties vying for a bullpen spot after being acquired from Kansas City as spring training began.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Cardinals did not have any plans to rescind any of the option moves they’ve already made this spring due to Wainwright’s move to the IL. Dakota Hudson and lefty Matthew Liberatore, two pitchers on starting schedules, had been optioned out this past week and could at some point in time be considered for any opening in the rotation.