It could well turn out that ten-plus months from now, when the Cardinals sit back to reflect upon their 2012 season, they will point out that the biggest boost of this offseason came not from some external addition, but rather from the return of an All-Star arm.

The formidability of the club's rotation depends largely on the return of Adam Wainwright, who 10 1/2 months ago was undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

At the time of the procedure, St. Louis remained optimistic that Wainwright would recover in time to enjoy an uninterrupted 2012 season. And certainly, a best-case scenario has since followed.