Wainwright averaged 222 innings the past three seasons. He went 20-9 last year, then had surgery to remove torn cartilage from his right elbow after St. Louis was eliminated by the Giants in the NL Championship Series.
Manager Mike Matheny said Friday the most noticeable change this spring may be the number of starts Wainwright gets. Matheny didn't specify a limitation for Wainwright, who made five spring starts last year.
''It will just be him continuing to get the work, but it just might not be work on the game field,'' Matheny said.
Wainwright said he could probably be ready for the opener with four starts, but wasn't as sure about his sharpness if he made just three starts.
But, he added, ''As long as we are talking about liming starts now and not in the regular season I'm fine with it.''
Wainwright already throws a less vigorous bullpen session between starts than many starters. He pointed out that the Cardinals won the Central by two games last season so every one of his starts counted.
''If I take starts off we may not get to the post season,'' Wainwright said. ''And getting there, to me, seems pretty important.''
Wainwright joked that the answer to scaling the workload back may be a matter of being more efficient.
''I'm getting paid to play every five days as it is, not every day,'' Wainwright said. ''If I'm skipping my one every five days, good Lord, what am I getting paid for?''
The Cardinals realize keeping the ball out of Wainwright's hand isn't going to be easy.
''He's our ace, he's going to want to pitch,'' general manager John Mozeliak said.
The 20-game winner was among those throwing off a mound on the first official workout for pitchers and catchers. He spent part of a short session working on his cutter.
It was the third time Wainwright has thrown off a mound since arriving in Florida a few weeks early.
Wacha missed much of last season with a stress reaction in his shoulder and Garcia was limited to seven starts before undergoing surgery to relieve nerve compression. A healthy Wacha's spot in the rotation is secure while Garcia, who hasn't pitched in more than 20 games since 2011, isis fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation.
''He's a guy that's never been a doubt about his stuff,'' Matheny said. ''He's going to have to show durability and I don't know if there's enough time through spring training to actually show that.''