Adam Wainwright is expected to miss the season
The Cardinals pitcher was among the best starters in the National League last season. Reuters

(Reuters) St. Louis Cardinals All-Star Adam Wainwright needs reconstructive elbow surgery and will be sidelined at least a year, the team said Thursday.

Wainwright's absence will be a setback to the Cardinals, who were expected to contend for the National League Central Division title.

A second doctor's opinion confirmed the 29-year-old, right-handed starter will require the replacement of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told reporters at the team's spring training site in Jupiter, Florida.

Typical recovery time for the procedure, known as Tommy John surgery, is roughly 12-15 months for pitchers.

It's not a real surprise to us but certainly a disappointment and a finality to this process, Mozeliak said.

The 6-foot-7(201cm) Wainwright is expected to have the operation next week.

The procedure is named after a former Major League pitcher who became the first professional athlete to successfully undergo the surgery.

Wainwright said he felt a sensation in his elbow while throwing batting practice on Monday and the problem developed into significant stiffness.

The pitcher went 20-11 in 2010 and finished second to Philadelphia's Roy Halladay in voting for the NL Cy Young Award. He was third in 2009 voting, when he had a 19-8 record.