I was set to begin the daily podcast that John Halpin & I do each day on BlogTalkRadio when news broke of Adam Wainwright’s elbow injury. Any thoughts of business as usual and trucking through the divisional overviews went to the wayside.

Wainwright reportedly felt a tug in his elbow during Monday’s workout and was sent back to St. Louis for a complete work-up. Our collective radar immediately went up and the name “Tommy John” started to be whispered. Later in the day, general manager John Mozeliak confirmed that the injury appeared, at first review, to be serious.

Those discussions of a TJ surgery started to gain momentum in the early afternoon. Team spokesman Brian Bartow addressed reporters and advised that the results of Wainwright’s MRIs had been sent to Dr. Lewis Yocum. Yocum’s name is one that you never want to see associated with your pitching talent.

For now, I’m assuming the worst and expect to hear of Wainwright undergoing season-ending surgery by the end of the week. As such, it’s time to find a replacement. Kyle McClellan, who pitched to a stellar 2.27 ERA in 68 relief appearances last season, appears to be the frontrunner of the internal candidates.

Whether the Cardinals work the Dave Duncan magic again or find a trading partner, you’re not replacing a pitcher who has won 39 games in the past two seasons. You’re also placing a great deal of strain on the other members of the rotation and the bullpen (Wainwright pitched at least 230 innings in back-to-back seasons).

The Cardinals were already facing questions about the back-end of the staff while chasing the Reds and fighting off the retooled Brewers. That task just got infinitely more difficult.

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Fantasy owners are obviously gripping if they’d retained Wainwright in their keeper league or selected him in an early 2011 draft (hey, the draft season kicked into high gear on the Monday following the Super Bowl). Don’t panic. Wait on the official information, IR him if you can, and get ready to pounce on the wire.