Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted this morning that Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is heading back to St. Louis to have the ligament in his right elbow examined.  General manager John Mozeliak told Goold that he believes it to be a significant injury.  Earlier this week, St. Louis learned that they’d be without Nick Punto to start the season after the scrappy (white) middle infielder required hernia surgery.

Having the best pitcher in your rotation requiring Tommy John surgery wouldn’t be welcome news for any team, but it especially hurts the St. Louis Cardinals, who probably needed everything to go right to compete with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.  It’s also potentially terrible news for Wainwright, who has a $21 million, two year option at the end of this season that vested for him when placed second in last year’s Cy Young voting.  To claim that option though, he must not finish the season on the Disabled List.

Despite rumours that he had been pitching with a partially torn UCL for several years, Wainwright has thrown more than 460 innings over the last two seasons, the sixth most in all of baseball.  Only Ubaldo Jiminez of the Colorado Rockies has thrown more pitches in the National League over that time frame.

Update: Talk of Joe Blanton and Kevin Millwood becoming targets for the Cardinals has already begun.  An interesting possibility for the Cardinals includes them using the $21 million they save on Wainwright to contribute to the Keep Pujols In St. Louis fund.