Just say no
“Just my thoughts, man, right or wrong…”
(i.e., what follows is my opinion, my opinion only, no statement on behalf of anyone else, etc etc etc)
The Cardinals must resist the temptation to use Adam Wainwright in relief. It just doesn’t make sense.
The difference in value between an elite starter and even an excellent reliever is huge. And make no mistake, Wainwright has established himself as not merely a quality starter, but an elite one. You don’t mess with that. You take advantage of it, because there just aren’t many guys who bring what he brings.
Besides, simply by going in the rotation, Wainwright will essentially take the place of one reliever every five days.
When Chris Carpenter returns, it’s clear he’ll take the No. 5 spot, most recently held by Mitchell Boggs. When Wainwright returns, the Cards have three viable options to bump from the rotation: Joel Pineiro, Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer. Obviously Kyle Lohse will continue starting.
Pineiro has averaged 5.9 innings per start. Wellemeyer has averaged 5.8. Looper has averaged 5.7. Wainwright? Try 7.05 innings per start. Putting aside effectiveness, the increase in innings makes a difference in itself. Wainwright likely won’t go seven in his first start or two, but assuming he’s recovered, he’ll be up to that level before long.
And there’s also a difference in effectiveness. Wellemeyer in particular has struggled recently. Since he returned from his elbow trouble, he has a 5.51 ERA, has averaged 5.4 innings per start and the Cardinals have gone 1-5. Wellemeyer was outstanding early this year, but it is clear that he hasn’t fully returned to effectiveness since the injury. It’s not unreasonable to think that pitching fewer innings, as a reliever, might benefit him greatly.
Oh, and one other thing: Wainwright doesn’t want to go back to the bullpen. It’s not as though he’d make a big fuss if the move were made, but you can bet he wouldn’t be happy about it.