The Cardinals confirmed Monday that Adam Wainwright has a torn Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season. (File)

By Rob Rains

The biggest question about how the Cardinals will replace their ace, Adam Wainwright, in the starting rotation for the rest of the season is not merely about who takes his place on the pitching mound every fifth day.

It’s more a matter of who replaces the 200-plus innings Wainwright likely would have thrown in the 29 starts he would have been projected to make between Thursday and the end of September.

The Cardinals confirmed on Monday what they had feared since the fifth inning of Saturday night’s game in Milwaukee, when Wainwright slipped as he started to run out of the batter’s box. An MRI and multiple doctors concluded that Wainwright tore his Achilles tendon.

General Manager John Mozeliak said Wainwright likely will undergo surgery on Thursday. The “normal” recovery time for this type of injury is between nine and 12 months, although pitchers have traditionally been able to return more quickly than position players.

The injury also is to Wainwright’s left leg, which is not as serious as it would have been if had been to his right leg, which is the plant leg on his delivery.

“It’s a big blow,” Mozeliak said in an obvious understatement. “Unfortunate news, but not unexpected.”

Wainwright, 33, is the unquestioned leader on the Cardinals’ pitching staff, on and off the field. He routinely gives the staff 220-plus innings, and it is how the team will replace those innings that concerns Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny the most.

Mozeliak was not prepared Monday to say who will start in Wainwright’s place on Thursday, but it most likely will be either left-hander Tim Cooney, who would be making his major-league debut, or Tyler Lyons, both of whom are currently in the rotation at Triple A Memphis.

Cooney, 24, was scheduled to pitch on Monday night in Memphis but did not make that start.

“Don’t read too much into that,” Mozeliak said.

Lyons is scheduled to start Tuesday night’s game. Cooney is 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA in three starts while Lyons, who has started 12 games for the Cardinals over the last two seasons, is 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA in his three starts. Cooney is not on the 40-man roster, but that spot could be opened by placing Wainwright on the 60-day disabled list.

Either of those pitchers, however, likely will only be a temporary bridge until Marco Gonzales or perhaps Jaime Garcia is available. Gonzales is on the DL in Memphis with a tight shoulder. He received a clean MRI on Monday and is expected to resume throwing in a couple of days, Mozeliak said.

The Cardinals would want Gonzales to make at least one start in Memphis before promoting him to the majors, just to be 100 percent certain he is healthy.

Garcia, who has had more injury setbacks than wins the last several years, is currently working out at the Cardinals’ spring training facility in Florida with players in the extended spring training program. He is on a throwing schedule, and could begin a minor-league rehab assignment if his next outing on Thursday goes well.

Mozeliak said if there were no more setbacks he could see Garcia being available to pitch for the Cardinals in slightly less than a month.

With all of those pitchers, however, comes a question of trying to control how many innings they would be asked to throw this season – something the team also is closely monitoring with young starters Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.

“The innings gap is not easy,” Mozeliak said. “It’s not a simple replacement. As we think about this more long term, that might be where we do have to consider something outside.”

Gonzales threw a total of 156 innings last year, spread across the minor leagues and majors, and Wacha threw a career-high of 149 innings in 2013 before his injury-marred 2014. Martinez’s career high is 99 innings, split between Memphis and St. Louis, last season.

“When you think about losing somebody like Adam Wainwright it’s not something you can just fill,” Mozeliak said. “The easiest way of us to think about it right now is our four starters all have to step up and we’ll have to worry about the fifth spot.

“The timing of this is not great with Marco being sidelined and still having Jaime rehabbing. We’re hoping those names can also figure into the mix in due time.”

Mozeliak appears committed to the internal options, at least for the next several weeks, but admits the loss of Wainwright does increase the possibility the team could go outside the organization to bring in a starter at some point later this summer.

“Let’s see how things go,” Mozeliak said. “Our job is to put a product out there that can compete and that we’re proud of, and if that means having to look outside the organization we’re certainly willing to do that and we’ve done that in the past. If we can absorb this internally that would be a great solution.

“Those are questions we can’t answer today. As we progress we may have a better understanding.”

Where an outside deal might become more of a possibility is when the postseason factor is added into the equation. Lynn has made seven career starts in the postseason and Wacha five, and none as the team’s number one starter. The 36-year-old Lackey has 18 career postseason starts, but only six have come since 2009.

Garcia has made six career starts in the postseason, all in 2011 and 2012, while Gonzales and Martinez have never started a postseason game and have combined for only 16 career starts in the regular season.

Wainwright, who has made 12 career postseason starts, already missed all of the 2011 season, including the run to the World Series title, after tearing ligaments in his right elbow that spring, requiring him to undergo Tommy John surgery.

A team spokesman said Wainwright was not at Busch Stadium Monday night and thus was not available to the media.

“He’s down,” Mozeliak said. “He’s a very honorable player. He feels his job is to play under his contract and he wishes he could do that. He’s down right now, understandably, but I also feel like his presence on this club will be felt all year. He’ll be around.”

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Audio: John Mozeliak on Adam Wainwright's Injury   https://shar.es/1pdp8F

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