Waino insists it’s just tendinitis, and he’ll be smart about his next start

Adam Wainwright is scheduled to play catch Saturday. How he comes out of that will determine the team's next step.

Chris Lee/AP

ST. LOUIS — Don’t be surprised if Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright misses his next start, which still is scheduled for Monday against the New York Mets.

Even though all parties said Friday that his right elbow is sound and he very likely could go on Monday, all parties also said there is no need to push him with so much of the season still to come.

Wainwright, who said all he’s dealing with is tendinitis, leads the Cardinals staff with a 9-3 record and a 2.15 ERA in 14 starts.

"Could I make the start? Absolutely," he said. "Do I need to make the start in early to mid-June if I still have a little something barking if, in fact, I waited a couple of days and it’s going to go away? Then I’ll wait a couple of days to make sure it goes away."

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Wainwright received an injection to calm what he called a "very, very small spot" of inflammation on the back of his right elbow — not close to the ligament he had replaced in Tommy John surgery three years ago. He has not thrown since pitching seven shutout innings at Tampa Bay in a 1-0 win on Tuesday night.

He is scheduled to play catch Saturday. How he comes out of that will determine the team’s next step.

"If I go out and I feel amazing, then there’s a difference between smart and being silly," Wainwright said. "If I’m not hurt at all, and I don’t feel any discomfort, then it’s just being silly not to pitch. I have very high hopes to go out and feel good tomorrow. If I don’t feel 100 percent, they’re telling me to just wait a couple of days and we’ll see what happens."

Because the Cardinals were off Thursday, Michael Wacha could be moved up to start Monday on regular rest, which would push Wainwright to Tuesday and allow him a full week between starts. St. Louis also could skip Wainwright’s next turn and bring up a minor leaguer for one start.

"That gives us some flexibility," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But we’ll just see what the training staff and medical staff recommends.

"It’s really about, ‘Is he going to be comfortable. Will he still have that discomfort?’ If he does, we have to do what’s best for him. It’s a long season and certainly you don’t want to put the season in jeopardy for one start."

Wainwright’s workload likely has played a part in this flare-up, as has his signature pitch. Talking with FOX Sports Midwest analyst Tim McCarver recently, Wainwright mentioned how throwing a curveball is difficult on the elbow — especially when a pitcher throws one with as much spin as Wainwright.

But as Wainwright said Friday, "Do you want me to stop throwing my curveball?"

"No" came the reply.

"That’s exactly right," Wainwright said.

The 32-year-old right-hander added there’s no way to know for sure what led to this bout of tendinitis, which he initially felt during his previous start against the Royals.

"But what I do know for sure is the St. Louis Cardinals are paying me quite a bit of money to go deep into games and pitch a lot of innings," he said. "That’s what I’m getting paid to do. I work my tail off in the offseasons and throughout the season to go out there and be a horse for this team every year.

"It’s not something that I work to be able to do once every three years. I feel like I’m in shape and strong enough to do that year in and year out. If I have to miss a start once every three years without going on the DL, I think that’s an OK thing."

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