Wainwright hoping to work All-Star system to Mujica’s advantage

ST. LOUIS — Cardinals All-Star right-hander Adam Wainwright has a dilemma.

He would like to pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

But caring teammate that he is, he would like even more for Cardinals closer Edward Mujica to pitch in the All-Star Game.

Wainwright so badly wants his teammate to make his first All-Star team that he gladly would give up his place on the National League’s 34-man roster. Because of baseball rules governing All-Star participation, Wainwright is in a position to give up his spot. Much to his dissatisfaction, however, he can’t decide who takes his place.

But he certainly can try to influence the decision.

“I want it to be known that I am available and I would love to pitch, but I’d rather see Mujie get a chance to pitch in that game,” Wainwright said Tuesday night after he won his 12th game and lowered his ERA to 2.30.

While Wainwright isn’t allowed to name his replacement, don’t be surprised if he helps get the Chief to New York. Indications from the Cardinals are that Wainwright will decide to give up his roster spot before he makes his Sunday night start at Wrigley Field. Indications from an MLB source Wednesday morning were that Mujica is a “prime candidate” to be a replacement player.

He should be, too. Mujica’s 24 saves are tied for second in the NL with Braves All-Star Craig Kimbrel. Only the Pirates’ Jason Grilli, another All-Star, has more. Even more impressive, Mujica saved the Cardinals’ bullpen — and perhaps their season — when he took over the role in mid-April after Mitchell Boggs proved incapable of filling in for the injured Jason Motte.

Perhaps the most implausible part of this All-Star tomfoolery is Wainwright did not initially know he would have a choice to pitch or simply attend the festivities. When the Cardinals decided to take advantage of an off day to get him an extra start that would fall on the last day before the break, they assumed he automatically was forfeiting his chance to pitch in the All-Star Game two days later.

Not until late Saturday did Wainwright learn of a rule change in the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement that gives Sunday starters the option of being eligible for pitching one inning in the All-Star Game. Matheny and even NL All-Star manager Bruce Bochy apparently were unaware of the change, too. When Matheny said last Friday that he had called Bochy to inform him that Wainwright would be starting on Sunday, the message was that Wainwright was giving up his chance to pitch in the All-Star Game.

Why no one at Busch Stadium knew about the rule change until late Saturday remains baffling. On one hand, the rule is only two years old and the All-Star Game comes around but once a year. On the other, the writing in the CBA could not be any clearer.

From Page 72: “Any starting pitcher elected or selected to the All-Star team who makes a start on the Sunday immediately preceding the All-Star Game (“Sunday Pitcher”) shall have the option to participate or not participate in the All-Star Game.”

When I asked Wainwright why he wasn’t aware of the change, he was as clueless as I had been Saturday. But once he found out, he is a thoughtful enough teammate — and a cunning enough character — to try and work the new rule to his team’s advantage. That would be getting a sixth Cardinal, namely Mujica, on the NL team.

“I’d rather one of my guys go than a rival pitcher, without naming names,” Wainwright said with a hint of mischief.

Wainwright doesn’t know when he must inform MLB of his intentions, but there’s a reason for that. There is no deadline, according to an MLB spokesman.

“In most cases, we have a feeling as to which way the Sunday pitchers are leaning, and there are contingency plans to line up potential replacements,” the spokesman said Wednesday morning.

MLB could find out which way Wainwright is leaning very easily. Just give him the contingency plan he wants to hear.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.