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Wainwright Recovery Key to Cardinals’ Title Defense

I wrote off the St. Louis Cardinals last February when they lost Adam Wainwright. That will tell you three things: 1) Never take my betting advice; 2) It’s easy to overreact in March; 3) Wainwright is an impact pitcher.

The Cardinals’ run to the World Series was amazing enough, but when you consider they did it without Wainwright — one of the best pitchers in the game — it’s downright unbelievable.

Wainwright was the Cy Young runner-up in 2010 and finished third in ’09. Over those two seasons, he had 39 wins to go with a 2.52 ERA and 425 strikeouts. His road back has been smooth to this point, but you never know how a pitcher will recover from Tommy John surgery.

Wainwright told the Associated Press the biggest difference has been having to work off the team’s throwing program.

“It’s different because in year’s past I know exactly how I’m gonna feel pretty much,” he said. “So it was kind of a system that worked and got my arm ready more rapidly. This year it’s kind of a different system that’s their system that I’ve been doing this whole time. So I really don’t know how my arm is gonna respond until the next day. But everything’s responding well.”

One thing’s for sure, staff ace Chris Carpenter could use some help anchoring the rotation. From the start of last March to the end of October, Carpenter pitched almost 300 innings. Wainwright is scheduled to make his Spring Training debut Friday.

There are a lot of question marks surrounding this team, but they proved anything is possible last season. Being a first-time manager, Mike Matheny is going to need some time to settle in. The National League looks wide open this year, so don’t be shocked to see some more Cardinal magic in 2012.

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