Staying positive: Wainwright vows to remain a leader in Cardinals’ clubhouse

ST. LOUIS — Even though he can’t pitch, Adam Wainwright will do whatever he can to contribute to the Cardinals’ success this season.

The team’s ace will undergo surgery Thursday in St. Louis on his left Achilles, which completely tore on what doctors said was a "freak play" as he left the batter’s box Saturday night at Milwaukee. It’s the second major injury in the last five years for Wainwright, who missed all of 2011 with an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery.

"It’s the first time I’ve ever had to miss (regular season) baseball time without having a sore arm, so this is going to be totally, completely new for me," Wainwright says. "It’s really disappointing."

Manager Mike Matheny and right fielder Jason Heyward are among those who have praised Wainwright’s leadership ability in the clubhouse, and he doesn’t expect that to change, at least for home games. He’s also eager go jump into the long, grueling rehabilitation process and get back as quick as he can, while understanding patience will be key.

"I’ll use that as motivation to the extent that I’m allowed to do it," Wainwright says. "Going through a rehab process before Tommy John, there’s certain things you can push and there’s certain things you can’t, and it sounds like with this if you push too hard too soon, you can really mess things up. That’s exactly what I don’t want to do."

• Grichuk making progress. Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk says he resumed hitting off a tee and throwing this week, but there’s still no timetable for his return.

He suffered a lower back strain while squatting reps of 265 pounds in the weight room April 17, one day after he doubled and scored in a 4-0 win over Milwaukee. The young power hitter went through a similar injury in spring training and says he’ll have to find a way to adjust his workout while maintaining the strength that makes him one of the team’s best power hitters off the bench.

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"I’ve been working out and doing a lot of step-ups, a lot of lunges, stuff like that," Grichuk says. "Staying away from the squats for a little while and just keep my legs in shape doing other stuff."

A rehab assignment will be his first step before rejoining the Cardinals, and Grichuk said he won’t come back until he’s able to do everything at the plate and in the field.

• Waino says "no" to DH. All the baseball pundits clamoring for the designated hitter in the National League following Wainwright’s injury might want to take a breath and hear what the veteran right-hander has to say.

"I couldn’t disagree more," Wainwright says. "I just think that baseball is a National League game. I wish both leagues would convert to National League baseball."

That option doesn’t even seem to be a consideration at this point, and it’s worth noting injuries may be the worst of all the arguments for the DH in the NL. Advocates point out it would be a great way to provide a much-needed boost for offenses and allow highly paid starting pitchers to go deeper into games.

But for Wainwright, those advantages wouldn’t outweigh the beauty and strategy of the National League, which he’s been a part of since his major league debut in September 2005. He certainly doesn’t see his injury as a reason to change that opinion, since it could have happened at any other time he needed to quickly take off running.

"Baseball’s a beautiful game and I just hope it doesn’t change too much," Wainwright says. "It was a fluke thing and baseball needs to stay exactly the way it is."

Shaking up the batting order. Matheny hopes a few lineup changes will provide a boost for Heyward, who’s batting just .205 and hasn’t played since leaving Sunday’s game in Milwaukee with a strained hamstring. Jon Jay will bat leadoff for the first time as Matt Carpenter moves down into Heyward’s usual spot.

You can follow Luke Thompson on Twitter at @FS_LukeT or email him at lukegthompson87@gmail.com.