Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak announced Thursday morning that, as expected, ace Adam Wainwright will require reconstructive elbow surgery. The right-hander will miss the entire 2011 season, and quite possibly part of the 2012 campaign as well.
Wainwright, 29, will undergo Tommy John surgery to replace the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The typical recovery time for a starting pitcher who undergoes the operation is roughly 12-15 months, and for many pitchers, full effectiveness doesn't return until the second season after the operation.
The club had expected that Wainwright would need the surgery after he consulted with Dr. George Paletta, the team's head physician, on Wednesday. A second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum confirmed Paletta's findings. Yocum notified Mozeliak of his opinion on Wednesday evening, and Mozeliak informed reporters on Thursday morning.
"It's not a real surprise to us this morning," Mozeliak said, "but certainly a disappointment and a finality to this process."
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Wainwright is coming off a brilliant season in which he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting. He went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA, 213 strikeouts and 56 walks in 230 1/3 innings pitched. He racked up five complete games and two shutoutsm and earned his first All-Star selection.
"You're losing an ace," Mozeliak acknowledged. "It's not something you'll just replace overnight."
Club officials said that Wainwright will likely wait until next week to address reporters about his situation. Manager Tony La Russa said Thursday that he did not know when or whether Wainwright would report to camp in Jupiter.
Wainwright experienced discomfort in the joint late in 2010, and the club shut him down rather than allowing him to make his final start of the season. Rehabilitation and rest had provided both player and team with confidence that Wainwright could continue pitching with a partially damaged UCL.
However, in a throwing session on Monday, Wainwright experienced increased distress in the joint, leading him to seek medical attention.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.