Cardinals plan to start Adam Wainwright on Opening Day

JUPITER, Fla. -- Barring an injury this spring, Adam Wainwright will pitch on Opening Day for the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Mike Matheny said Sunday.

"I'd say it's pretty likely," Matheny said, smiling. "I mean, he's our guy, there's no doubt about it. We've got to see how spring goes, if there are any setbacks, anything that takes us off normal course, but this guy's the leader of our staff. He means so much to our club in a lot of regards."

It will be Wainwright's fourth consecutive Opening Day start. The only other Cardinals pitcher to start four straight openers was Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

"It would be a great honor, for sure," Wainwright said. "It's something I've tried to get ready for and tried to prepare myself for for for a long time. I remember telling Tony [LaRussa] when he started [Chris Carpenter] one year, 'Next year, you're not going to have a choice in the matter. I'm going to make you start me Opening Day.' That pushed me. Now, it's just about competing, whether that's the first day or the fifth day."

Wainwright has been the Cardinals' ace since 2009, but he was limited to 28 innings last season. He ruptured his left Achilles tendon in April, then came back late in the season to pitch in relief.

The Cardinals open the season April 3 in Pittsburgh on ESPN.

Wainwright, 34, has gone 41-19 with a 2.61 ERA the past three seasons. He is the only Cardinals starting pitcher to have reached his 30th birthday. Behind him in the rotation are Mike Leake (28), Jaime Garcia (29), and Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez (both 24).

Matheny said he hasn't settled on the order of the rotation beyond Wainwright.

"We have a lot of time until we have to do that," he said.