Standing in almost the same spot where three years earlier he fielded questions about the injury clause in his new contract, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, his arm in an articulated brace, conceded the hypothetical has become reality.

And he insisted he's still content with his contract, including its $21-million two-year option that hinges on his health.

"I'm actually really happy that I have that option, that I have that clause in there right now," Wainwright said Wednesday morning at the Cardinals' spring training clubhouse. "One way or the other, if I'm hurt and I can never come back I would feel bad taking that much money from a team I couldn't help. If (the Cardinals) don't want to pick it up, then I'll be a free agent sooner."

Wainwright returned to the Cardinals' spring training facility for the first time since having Tommy John surgery on Feb. 28 to rebuild his right elbow. He said he's back in Florida to begin his rehab today. He'll miss all of the 2011 season, and the standard recovery from Tommy John is at least 12 months. He had the cast removed Monday and that allowed him to travel and begin do something mild exercises to regain strength.

His running is even limited because doctors used a tendon from his left hamstring string to replace the frayed and split ligament in his elbow. Wainwright has the two-scar Tommy John, with the signature scar running down the back side of his right elbow and another scar slashed beneath his left knee.

Wainwright's recent activity has been limited to iPad surfing.

"Very, very uneventful," Wainwright said of his two weeks since surgery. "I've lost all of my muscle. The term is atrophy. That's happened. I'm Mr. Atrophy right now."

Wainwright plans to start his rehab here in Jupiter and then travel to St. Louis, where he'll do his rehab within arms reach of the team. His hope is to be around the club and with the other Cardinals all season, as much a cheerleader as teammate. He joked that he could be "a pitching coach that no one listens to." He was greeted Wednesday in the clubhouse with mock applause and sincere hugs from the teammates who didn't travel to Lakeland, Fla., for the game.