Opening Day possible for Cards' ace

JUPITER, Fla. -- Adam Wainwright has been diagnosed with an abdominal strain, but the St. Louis ace could be available to pitch the Cardinals' opener at Wrigley Field on April 5.

Wainwright strained the muscle Monday while putting a 45-pound weight back on a rack. General manager John Mozeliak said Thursday that the strain is about belt high.

"Based on all the different studies and what the doctor saw, he feels this was the best news we could have gotten," Mozeliak said.

Wainwright said that the pain originally felt like a twinge when it first occurred and that the injury bothered him when he ran or lunged but did not affect his pitching. He walked off a practice field Tuesday after the team's stretch, returned to St. Louis on Wednesday and was examined by Dr. Michael Brunt on Thursday.

"In the end, I feel good about what we know, and I know Adam is relieved," Mozeliak said.

Wainwright was expected back at spring training later Thursday. Mozeliak said Wainwright will avoid running and lifting for at least half a week but can throw.

"I think we can take the foot off the gas on the bullpen session," Mozeliak said. "We'll discuss what that strategy looks like in conjunction with the medical staff, but based on what I've been told, having him continue to throw is OK," Mozeliak said.

Mozeliak said Wainwright will need to make three or four exhibition starts to be ready for the season.

Wainwright went 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA last year, then underwent offseason elbow surgery to remove cartilage from his throwing elbow. He began 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA and started the All-Star Game for the NL, then went 8-5 with a 3.24 ERA.