Wainwright says he's ready to return from finger injury

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright said Tuesday he's ready to come off the 15-day disabled list, saying simply: "It's time." The question: In what capacity?

The Cardinals had been preparing the right-hander, out with a tendon injury in his right middle finger since early June, to return as the closer. But rookie Chris Perez' success in that role factors into the equation, and Wainwright threw 65 pitches in 4 2-3 scoreless innings on Friday for Double-A Springfield while saying he easily could have taken a full starter's load.

A bullpen session Tuesday afternoon solidified his thinking.

"My finger feels perfect," Wainwright said. "That's what I went down there to make sure about, and now I know it's perfect. I'm very ready."

Another rehab assignment, Wainwright said, would be "wasting game bullets." He had told Cardinals manager Tony La Russa the same thing just minutes earlier and said he received no firm commitment.

The opening day starter is 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts. He could be slotted into the rotation as soon as Friday, with La Russa naming no probable pitchers past today's finale of a two-game series with the Pirates.

Wainwright said he'd rather start, but was willing to do whatever the team needed. He was successful as the stand-in closer after Jason Isringhausen underwent season-ending hip surgery in 2006, helping the Cardinals win the World Series.

The Cardinals don't particularly need another starter at the moment given they'll have four days off in a 15-day span starting Thursday. La Russa had been contemplating using a four-man rotation during this stretch but also noted the rotation could use an extra day off here and there.

Further complicating matters, Chris Carpenter played catch Tuesday for the first time since going on the DL on Aug. 11 with a shoulder strain. Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, said he had no pain while making some throws from as long as 150 feet at reduced intensity, and is scheduled to play catch again today.

"I'll do it again tomorrow, and put a little more into it, and go from there," Carpenter said.

Carpenter is 0-1 with a 1.88 ERA in three starts since coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery.

in July 2007, wasn't sure what would happen if all went well on Wednesday.

"You'll have to ask somebody," he said. "I have no idea."

Perez, 23, was 4-for-4 in saves since being recalled for the second time this season from Triple-A Memphis on Aug. 6, stepping in after Isringhausen and setup man Ryan Franklin fell short as the closer. The hard-throwing right-hander honed his offspeed pitches after being optioned back to the minors in mid-July and has been durable, with a pair of five-out saves.

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