Always thankful of the blessings life has provided him, Adam Wainwright has a little something extra to be thankful for this year as he sits down for turkey dinner. The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher finally had his offensive exploits recognized with the National League Silver Slugger Award.
“You got that right, man,” chuckled Wainwright. “I think my teammates and probably fans too, got tired of me predicting I was going to win every year in Spring Training. You know what, I just really wish that I’d had the approach that I have right now my whole career. It just allows me to see the ball so well and I feel comfortable up there. I feel like–I feel like I’m dangerous up there. It’s crazy to say that as a pitcher, but I feel like you know what, I’m about to hit a home run just about every at-bat.”
Wainwright hit .262 this past season, tops amongst qualified MLB pitchers. He also hit a pair of home runs and drove in 11 runs.
“I love that award,” he continued. “I think it’s probably the coolest looking award, too. I’m already trying to figure out places right now of where I’m going to put it. I do feel really honored to win that award. In my opinion, starting pitchers are the best athletes on the field and now I’ve got a little more fuel for the fire for those teammates of mine.”
Wainwright received texts from about 10 teammates who were excited that he won, but they also noted ‘oh great, now we’re going to have to hear about this all the time’ which he admits, there may be the need to provide some additional advice this season.
“During batting practice and what not,” he laughed. “Hey guys, try to keep that front shoulder in a little bit. Take it from me, Silver Slugger. I know what I’m talking about. That kind of stuff.”
Fans can have the chance to win a game-used bat and autograph from Wainwright, part of a Turkey Day Shootout contest he’s hosting at BigLeagueImpact.org to help benefit Yadier Molina’s charity in Puerto Rico.
“Those hurricanes, they really did a number on a lot of different places,” said Wainwright. “Carp and I teamed up to help Houston a little bit and luckily, he hit a lot of home runs that cost me a lot of money and I was glad to give it.
“Now, what happened in Puerto Rico was devastating. We’ve seen in other countries what happens when bad storms go through there down in that Caribbean area–it just tears them apart. Those rivers, Yadi showed me his hometown. There was a river flowing down the street and it was up to the top of the doors on a lot of the buildings. It was intense. Big time damage done over there.”
Wainwright and his wife have already made a pledge to help the cause and Big League Impact has raised nearly $2 million over the last five years, but saw this as a chance to help do even more.
“When you look at humanity as a whole, instead of just being American–we’re all humans and trying to help out every single person that we can,” said Adam. “This is a great opportunity for us to jump on board and help the great people of Puerto Rico and help my teammate, basically my brother, Yadier Molina and what he’s trying to accomplish over there too.”
Participants will pick a fantasy football team based off the three games being played Thanksgiving Day. Whoever gets the most points, wins the autographed, game-used bat from Wainwright–who also promises to hype their fantasy football prowess on social media.
Wainwright hasn’t been too active on social media of late, but he’s well aware of all the rumors and speculation regarding a possible Giancarlo Stanton trade. Is he on the recruiting trail to help convince Stanton to approve a deal to join the Cardinals?
“No, I’m not involved in that at all,” said Wainwright. “Sometimes with free agents and what not, I love being part of those kinds of things where I can call and say ‘hey, I’d love to have you here’ but on the trade market, we put all our trust and faith in our GM and President of Baseball Operations, that whole team that has done such a great job over the years that has put us in position to win every single year. They’re doing such a great job, there’s really no reason to overstep our boundaries. I stay in my lane–I’m a player. When they ask me something, I try to respond, I try to have an answer for them or opinion of what I think. But other than that, I try to stay out of it as much as I can. I want to be a good soldier.
“When you look at Giancarlo, he’s certainly a humongous talent–a humongous person, also. The streak that he was on at the end of the season last year was just silly fun to watch. That was incredible. But that’s kind of talent he has. I think when you look at his career, barring a couple of injuries, he would’ve probably had a couple MVPs already. Great player and I heard is a great guy, good guy in the clubhouse. Those are the guys that we look for, but our GM, our President they’re going to do the job to make us good enough to win.”
So while he hasn’t been on the phone with Stanton, Wainwright was recently down in Florida, visiting with Dr. James Andrews to receive his scheduled PRP/bone marrow shot in his arm to help the healing process even further along.
“My arm is feeling great,” said Wainwright. “We’re starting to crank up some strength exercises now. I haven’t been able to train my upper body in months, so this is really exciting for me. I’m starting to have to hand jars to my older daughter to open for me because I was getting so weak. But now I’m starting to get stronger again and feeling good. I’m really excited to have that behind me.”
Wainwright underwent a scope on his right elbow to shave down a cartilage flap in early October.
“Probably, looking back at it, I should’ve had that fixed earlier–but you just never know with arm injuries,” he admits. “You just never know when they get in there, what they’re going to find and how long you’re going to be out for.”
It’s that fine line an athlete must walk of knowing when they are hurt and you need help or if you’re just hurting.
“Unless you test the waters, you really don’t know which one it is,” said Wainwright. “As a competitor, you want to go out there and help your team as best you can. Unfortunately, I just had to get fixed.”
Dr. George Paletta performed the procedure.
“Everybody is telling me I should be better and I’m feeling like I should be better too,” added Wainwright. “I think the people of St. Louis were tired of seeing me mediocre and I was tired of being that way too, so let’s get better.”
So when the St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers hold their first workout of Spring Training will Adam Wainwright be ready to play catch like everyone else or will he be on a slower pace?
“Everything I’ve heard is that I’ll be throwing, playing normal catch in early January,” he shared. “I always start January 1st. Between the 1st and the 15th is when I’ve started over the years, depending on what I was going through at the time. I really like starting January 1st, just to kind of wake the arm up a little bit sooner. So that’s what they’re telling me is going to happen, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Like the rest of the Cardinals pitching staff, Wainwright will have a couple of new voices to work with as the team has hired Mike Maddux as their new pitching coach and promoted Bryan Eversgerd to bullpen coach.
“Bringing in Mike Maddux is going to do nothing but help us,” stated Wainwright, who had a good conversation with his new coach soon after the hiring. “He has quite the resume and I talked to Max Scherzer about him. I trust his opinion greatly, knowing what kind of pitcher Max has become.
“And Max said that Coach Mike is very, very prepared. Always digging in deeper into the films trying to find reasons and areas where you can be better. As a pitcher, what could you ask for more than that? Somebody who’s out there rooting for you, who wants the best for you, and is constantly trying to make you better is exactly what we need.”
Wainwright and the rest of the pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 13th with their first workout taking place the next day.
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI; Jeff Curry, Steve Mitchell, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports