Adam Wainwright is “pretty stinking close” to “perfect rehab”

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Adam Wainwright is 12 months removed from Tommy John elbow surgery and one month into a throwing program designed to get him ready for spring training, and the Cardinals right-hander is making excellent progress in his recovery.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that he threw 30 pitches to a catcher on Monday and then made 50 throws from 110 feet on Tuesday. He’s even started mixing in a few curveballs, although Wainwright admitted that he’s not sure if the throwing program allows for off-speed stuff yet.

He’s expected to begin throwing off a mound within a few weeks and will arrive in Florida a month ahead of spring training to continue his throwing program, which Wainwright called “pretty stinking close” to “the perfect rehab.”

Albert Pujols is obviously impossible to replace in the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup, but if Carlos Beltran stays healthy and Wainwright picks up where he left off as one of the league’s elite starters there’s a chance the team may be even stronger in 2012.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.