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Longtime ace Adam Wainwright returns to Cardinals for 2023 season, per source

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Adam Wainwright

Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright celebrates getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the National League wild-card game against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman looks at the Cardinals’ 2023 rotation and possible offensive free-agency acquisitions. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to Pat Sajak! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

Adam Wainwright, a fixture of the Cardinals' rotation for 15 consecutive winning seasons and guiding presence for a generation of young starters, will return to the Cardinals for the 2023 season, a source told the Post-Dispatch.

It will be Wainwright's 19th season with the Cardinals.

Wainwright, 41, will have the chance to pursue a 200th career win and look to tie the all-time record for second-most wins as a Cardinals pitcher, at 210. He already ranks second only to Bob Gibson in strikeouts for the team, and he's the only member of the team now who was also a part of the 2006 World Series championship.

He got the final out as that team's closer.

Wainwright agreed to a one-year extension on his current contract. The team has scheduled a press conference with the right-hander for Wednesday afternoon.

St. Louis Cardinals president of operations John Mozeliak on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 talks about the return of Adam Wainwright for another season with the team.

The veteran right-hander went 11-12 in 2022 with a 3.71 ERA. While the Cardinals marketed the season as a "last ride" for the trio that has defined an era in the club's history, Wainwright did not join teammates Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols in announcing his retirement. Molina and Pujols both announced during spring training their plans to retire at season's end.

Wainwright steadfastly kept open the possibility of a return, saying he wanted to meet with family before deciding. Late in the season, he expressed an interest in talking to the Cardinals about a return for 2023 and what that contract would look like.

Wainwright said after the Cardinals' loss to the Phillies in the wild-card series that he was frustrated by not pitching at all in the series, and that he could draw motivation from how his season ended.

Wainwright had a 2.50 ERA as the Cardinals stormed to the division lead in August and he went 2-1 in six starts that month. He struck out 31 and allowed 33 hits in 39 2/3 innings as one of the top starters in the National League. In September, his ERA ballooned to 7.22 in six starts, and he allowed 44 hits in 28 2/3 innings. Throughout that frustrating month, Wainwright said he was experiencing "dead arm," or a lack of snap and life as the ball came off his fingertips.

After the season, he reviewed video of his performances and found another possible cause for the troubles, one that he traced back to a bruised knee that happened in late August. He explained later that the answer for his September struggles was in his stride.

A three-time All-Star, Wainwright has been the Cardinals most consistent pitcher for the previous four seasons. Arguably the team's most valuable player during and through the shortened 2020 season because of the stability and performance he brought to the team. Since 2019, Wainwright is 47-32 with a 3.57 ERA in 105 starts, and he's among the league leaders in innings, ERA, and complete games in that span.

Wainwright has been going year-to-year with contracts, first to prove his health and then to give him some flexibility as he spoke with his family about when it would be time to return home. He has joked that he promised his daughters a dog when he retires, and they have had to delay now for at least three years.

A year ago, he agreed to a one-year, $18-million deal for the 2022 season.

In his first 17 seasons with the Cardinals, Wainwright is 195-117 with a 3.38 ERA and 2,147 strikeouts.

He returns to a rotation that also has Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Dakota Hudson, Jordan Montgomery, and Jack Flaherty signed or under control through the 2023 season. Montgomery, Flaherty, and Hudson are all arbitration eligible this offseason.

The team confirmed an extension with Wainwright during a press conference Wednesday morning at Busch Stadium to discuss other changes and topics happening with the club. 

Columnist Jeff Gordon assigns year-end grades for the St. Louis Cardinals pitchers.

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