6/13/2014 8:30 P.M. ET
Wainwright puts Tommy John fears to rest
Cards ace says ligament is 'thick as an oak tree ... strong as can be'
By Alex Halsted / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright sat in the dugout at Busch Stadium on Friday afternoon and spent several minutes stressing one thing.
"I'm OK," Wainwright said. "I really am."
Wainwright, who disclosed after his Tuesday start against the Rays in St. Petersburg that he had been battling tendinitis, returned to St. Louis on Wednesday to have an MRI exam on his right elbow. Tests showed no major issues, but revealed a small area in the back of his arm with inflammation caused by the tendinitis.
Wainwright's return to St. Louis caused some concern, as the 32-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011.
"I know that in this business, when the word 'elbow' gets thrown around, people think the worst," Wainwright said. "In actuality, in all honest-to-goodness truth, the only reason we did an MRI at all was to see how to treat it better.
"I could pitch through this, there's no doubt, without seeing doctors and without getting a shot and all of that. Where I was thinking in my brain is that's not the smart play."
The veteran starter, who has already logged 100 1/3 innings this season, began feeling some discomfort in the final innings of his start against Kansas City on June 4, and it carried over to his outing against Tampa Bay.
Wainwright was removed after seven scoreless innings and just 92 pitches, an indication something might be wrong with the Cardinals' workhorse. In addition to the MRI, Wainwright was given an anti-inflammatory shot.
He will play catch Saturday, at which point the team will determine if he can make his scheduled start Monday. With the help of Thursday's off-day, the Cardinals could alter their rotation to provide Wainwright additional rest.
"I think the best way to think about this now is it's a long season," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "Certainly you don't want to put the season in jeopardy for one start. I think I know where we're leaning, but I'd like to see how he responds tomorrow."
Wainwright led the Majors with 241 2/3 innings pitched last season. In surpassing 100 innings through his first 14 starts this season, the right-hander has posted a 2.15 ERA.
While tests aren't able to determine the cause of Wainwright's tendinitis, he downplayed overuse over the last two seasons playing a key role.
"What I do know is the St. Louis Cardinals are paying me quite a bit of money to go deep into games and pitch a lot of innings," Wainwright said. "That's why I work my tail off in the offseasons and throughout the season to be a horse for this team."
Wainwright said he could have continued to pitch in his last outing and "absolutely" could start Monday, pitching through any pain. If there is any, though, he said he'll instead opt for extra rest until the issue is fully resolved.
His main concern Friday was to make it known his elbow is just fine.
"I really want people to know that my elbow, structurally, that you could see my ligament on the tape. ... It's as thick as an oak tree and strong as can be," Wainwright said. "I just want to clear the air there. It has nothing to do with my ligament whatsoever."
Kelly's recovery moves along, slowly
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly, who strained his left hamstring running out a bunt single April 16, has made progress, but for now there is no timetable for his return.
Kelly strained his left hamstring running out a bunt single April 16 against the Brewers and has been on the disabled list since the following day. There is no plan for when he might go on a rehab stint to work his way back.
"I don't know how close I am, I've only thrown twice and jogged a few times," Kelly said Friday. "Nothing even strenuous or anything, so I don't know a timetable for when a rehab assignment would be."
Kelly has thrown only twice off a mound, between 20 and 25 pitches -- all fastballs -- and said the muscles around the area in his hamstring feel strong.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Kelly should return by July at the latest.
• Left-hander Tyler Lyons, who is on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain, will make a rehab appearance for Triple-A Memphis on Saturday. Lyons allowed one run on three hits in two innings at Double-A on Monday.
"He'll throw again tomorrow in Memphis," Mozeliak said. "Hopefully we can get him to 55-60 pitches and based on that it becomes a baseball decision."
• Country singer Luke Bryan was a guest for Cardinals batting practice Friday at Busch Stadium, donning former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa's No. 10. Wainwright was asked if Bryan was a better hitter than he was.
"What a question," Wainwright said. "He's got a decent swing, I'll give him that."
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.