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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

February 24, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Adam Wainwright injury shows how quickly a team’s outlook can change

This has already been a miserable spring for the St. Louis Cardinals. First, they had to endure the whole Albert Pujols contract melodrama, something that figures to hang over them all season.

Now they are dealing with something that will likely prove far more damaging, at least in the short term (because does anyone really doubt that Pujols is going to overcome the distraction and put up his usual monster year?) In one fell swoop, they went from having one of the best one-two pitching punches in baseball in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright to losing Wainwright for the season. The team is confirming today that Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of 2011.

This is a devastating loss to a team that was already in danger of slipping behind a rising team like the Reds in the NL Central balance of power. And don’t sleep on Milwaukee, which has added Zack Grienke and Shaun Marcum to its rotation this season.

To get a feel for how much of a dropoff the Cardinals are facing without Wainwright, who finished second and third in the last two Cy Young votes, consider whom the Cardinals are looking at as his replacement. They say they will try to fill from within, and two of the people they are considering are Ian Snell and Miguel Batista.

Snell is coming off a season in which he went 0-5 with a 6.41 ERA for the Mariners (but pitched worse than the numbers indicate). Batista is 40 years old and was last a regular starter in 2007, when he went 4-14 with a 6.26 ERA for the Mariners.

On the other hand, Batista did get a spot start with Washington last year on July 27 when Stephen Strasburg was scratched at the last moment. He wound up pitching five shutout innings against the Braves, giving up three hits and striking out six in a 3-0 Washington win. That’s when he uttered the famous quote about understanding the booing he received from Nationals fans: “Imagine if you go to see Miss Universe, then you end up having Miss Iowa, you might get those kind of boos.

The upshot, you might recall, is that Batista ended up apologizing to Miss Iowa, who was a good sport about and even came to a Nationals game to throw out a first pitch.

No matter who ends up taking Wainwright’s spot — and my money’s on Kyle McClellan over Batista or Snell, if the Cardinals don’t go outside the organization — it’s going to be a huge comedown. I’ll spare the beauty contest comparisons, however.

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