Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright will open the season on the injured list due to a groin strain, manager Oli Marmol announced to the team’s beat this morning (Twitter link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Wainwright was healthy enough to toss four innings of one-run ball for Team USA in its semi-final victory over Cuba in the World Baseball Classic earlier this week, but he suffered this new injury in the weight room two days later. Rule 5 pick Wilking Rodriguez will also open the year on the injured list due to tightness in his right shoulder, tweets Ben Frederickson of the Post-Dispatch.
There’s no precise timeline for Wainwright, though Marmol indicated that the right-hander is likely to miss “several weeks,” John Denton of MLB.com tweets. Wainwright has pitched seven innings thus far in Grapefruit League play and tossed another eight frames in the WBC. Were it not for this weight room incident, Wainwright would’ve had time to get in another Grapefruit League outing, and he was then expected to serve as the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter in what will be the final season of his Major League career.
With Wainwright out for the next few weeks, right-hander Jake Woodford is expected to step into the rotation alongside Jordan Montgomery, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty. Woodford was likely ticketed for a long-relief role to begin the season and is plenty stretched out already, having pitched 17 2/3 innings over five appearances this spring. He’s posted a terrific 2.04 ERA with an 18-to-5 K/BB ratio in that time.
The 26-year-old Woodford has seen action with the Cards in each of the past three seasons, starting a total of 10 games in addition to another 55 relief appearances. He’s recorded a 3.61 ERA in that time, including a 2.23 mark in 48 1/3 innings just last season. Woodford carries one of the game’s lowest strikeout rates (15.9% career, 12.8% in 2022) but also possesses well above-average command, highlighted by last year’s 5.9% walk rate. In 2022, he used both his sinker and slider at career-high levels, and the resulting 52% ground-ball rate played right into one of the Cardinals’ greatest team strengths: infield defense. He’ll look for a similar outcome in 2023.
As for the 33-year-old Rodriguez, he’s something of a remarkable story. It’s been eight years since he last pitched in affiliated ball with the Yankees and nine year since his lone MLB cup of coffee with the Royals. The right-hander has been pitching regularly in the Venezuelan Winter League and, more recently, in the Mexican League. Over his past two seasons in Mexico, he’s tossed 73 innings of 2.71 ERA ball with gaudy strikeout totals, including a 2.01 ERA and 43.2% strikeout rate in 44 2/3 innings in 2022. The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal in August, but due to his prior minor league service from 2007-15 (with the Rays, Reds, Royals and Yankees), he was Rule 5-eligible and selected by the Cardinals.
Rodriguez will need to last the entire season on the Cardinals’ roster or injured list or else be placed on waivers and (if he clears) offered back to the Yankees. He’ll need at least 90 days on the active roster, as well, or else his Rule 5 status will roll over into the 2024 campaign and remain intact until he reaches that (cumulative) 90-day mark on the active roster.