- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Adam Wainwright won his 19th and 20th games while nursing a right forearm strain hurt in a freak accident at home. Now, the team doctor recommends he shut it down for the year.

The 20-game winner underwent an MRI exam on Monday that revealed a strained muscle in his forearm and inflammation near the elbow, and team physician Dr. George Paletta recommended that Wainwright not pitch again this season.

Manager Tony La Russa said he’d go with Wainwright if the Cardinals bucked astronomical odds and made it to the last day still in postseason contention. The Reds’ magic number for clinching the NL Central was one entering Tuesday night.

La Russa called the decision precautionary.

“I think it’s smart, he’s pitched enough, he’s had a great year. If we get to Sunday and we’ve won five in a row and they’ve lost five in a row, then he’ll pitch Sunday. How about that?” the manager said.

The Cardinals believe Wainwright will be fine with rest. The pitcher said the elbow ligament is not an issue.

“My ligament looks exactly the same as it did before, everything is perfectly intact,” Wainwright said. “It’s really a non-issue to be honest. If we’re going to the playoffs, I’m pitching.”

Wainwright is 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA, both second-best in the National League. He’s also second in innings (230 1/3) and third in strikeouts (213) and most of the season has been among the top contenders for the Cy Young Award.

Jake Westbrook will take Wainwright’s scheduled start on Thursday.

Wainwright said he slept on the arm earlier this month, woke up and found the arm numb, and flung it aside instead of waiting for feeling to return.

“I couldn’t make this up,” Wainwright said. “I know that happens to almost everybody in your life.

“Usually what you do is grab with the other arm and move it to other side and you wait for it to tingle or whatever. It was like 3 in the morning and out of pure laziness what I did was just fling it backwards, and I wrenched my elbow a little bit.”

The 29-year-old Wainwright won his 19th and 20th games since the injury while doing rehab between starts.

He then was taken out after six innings and 84 pitches the night he won his 20th game. He said Paletta told him there was a risk of further injury if he kept pitching.

The Cardinals have a two-year, $21 million option on Wainwright’s contract for 2012 and 2013 and one of the provisions is he not end this season or next season on the disabled list. Wainwright wasn’t worried about that.

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