ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright completed his bullpen session, walked with a confident stride toward the Cardinals dugout and told the assembled group of media members gathered there that he's ready to pitch in a Major League game.
All he needs now is a role. Will it be Wainwright the starter or Wainwright the reliever?
"I'm ready to face hitters in the big leagues," said Wainwright, who has been working his way back from a sprained right middle finger. "I know I can get guys out right now."
Wainwright said he would prefer to make his return as a starter, but will embrace whatever role the Cardinals decide he should take.
"I'm excited to be a part of it," Wainwright said. "I just don't know which role yet."
There has been talk that Wainwright's role for the stretch run is tied to the status of right-hander Chris Carpenter -- out with a shoulder strain -- who came through a toss session in good shape on Tuesday. But manager Tony La Russa made the point that the Carpenter-Wainwright scenario isn't necessarily a package deal.
"I've never said that," La Russa said. "They are together, but there's enough separation there that I think you have to do what's best for Adam and our club right now. And then, get Carp back as soon as we can. Then we'll see where we are."
Wainwright just hopes to know soon which way the Cardinals want to go with him.
"As a starter, you have a workout routine that you do on certain days," Wainwright said. "Not knowing whether you're a reliever or a starter, you don't know how to work out or to run."
Because of a schedule that includes two off-days this week and two more next week, the Cardinals have some flexibility in how they assemble their rotation for the near future.
"I feel like my identity is as a starter, but I'm not throwing out the other option," said Wainwright.
Wainwright said he would be "incredibly disappointed" if the Cardinals elected to have him make another rehab start.
"I wouldn't feel right about it," Wainwright said.
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.