SAN DIEGO • By the start of the first inning, Adam Wainwright felt a familiar pain in his right elbow.
By the middle of the third, his start was over.
The concern was just beginning.
The Cardinals veteran starter is likely headed back to St. Louis and the disabled list to determine what can be done with persisting pain in his right elbow. Wainwright walked a career-high six batters and put the Cardinals behind early in a game they would lose, 5-3, on Sunday at Petco Park. The Cardinals got the tying run into scoring position in the ninth inning -- and then back to back strikeouts ended the day and the series.
From the beginning, it was clear that Wainwright did not have his best feel for pitches or the velocity expected.
After the game he said he lacked "snap."
His fastball hovered below 90 mph, and there were times he had a cutter at 84 mph or 82 mph. His changeup, which usually would be in that range, slipped into the 70s mph. He was able to get outs with his curveball and find a way through two scoreless innings. In the third, a single with the bases loaded produced the Padres' first run and the end of Wainwright's start.
He allowed two runs on three hits and six walks in 2 1/3 innings.
John Gant completed the bulk of the game by allowing two runs on four hits through his 3 2/3 innings. He was kept on the active roster for the purpose of being a safety net for Wainwright.
"I didn't have much," Wainwright said. He added that another turn to the DL and another look at the elbow would give him a chance to determine what's next and that he still intends "to be a force" at some point this season.
The Cardinals got a triple and a homer from Harrison Bader to ignite an offense that otherwise was stymied by Padres' lefty Clayton Richard. Brad Hand struck out Carson Kelly and Kolten Wong with the bases loaded to end the game.
The Cardinals have an off day Monday before a series starts Tuesday in Minnesota.
Cardinals keep Gant available as Wainwright makes return to rotation
The need to have a long reliever available Sunday as Adam Wainwright makes his return to the rotation guided some of the decisions manager Mike Matheny made during extra innings Saturday and the team's roster decision the next morning.
Wainwright, who has been on the disabled list with an elbow issue, will have a limited pitch count as he starts the series finale vs. San Diego.
Matheny did not disclose the exact number, but said that with Wainwright having had only one rehab start since last appearing there will be some limitations on how deep into the game he can pitch, or that the team will let him pitch. To that end, the Cardinals kept starter John Gant on the roster so that he could absorb some of the innings. Gant would have started had Wainwright not been cleared for the day.
To make room on the active roster for Wainwright, the Cardinals optioned John Brebbia to Class AAA Memphis. Again.
Brebbia struck out five in two-plus innings Saturday night, and because his two walks led to the rally that won the game for the Padres he was tagged with that loss.
He was notified Sunday morning of the move.
The Cardinals continue to give Matt Carpenter time to work outside the game on his swing, and on Sunday outfielder Dexter Fowler is joining Carpenter in that pursuit. The two veterans have had difficult starts to the season and their batting averages are hovering below .150. After Saturday's extra-inning game, Fowler was back in the cage late into the night at Petco Park working on his swing.
Here's the lineup Matheny wrote for the final game before a quick visit to the American League this week: