(Busch Stadium) As he strode back to the dugout from taking his warm-up pitches in the bullpen, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright was given a standing ovation from fans welcoming him back from the disabled list. His last appearance was May 13th and he shared the emotions began even before that warm response.
“It was intense, there were a lot of emotions,” said Wainwright. “I got emotional, actually, stretching for the game if you can believe it. Inside. I didn’t even go outside yet and I had already gotten emotional. Mainly because I pulled everybody who had helped to rehab me and get me back close and gave them a big hug and just told them thank you.
“But I knew when I was walking out to the mound–in my mind, I was going 9 today. I felt good going into the start and you don’t go 9 when you leave the ball in the middle of the plate as many times as I did.”
His first inning of work was vintage Wainwright–dialed in and quickly attacking the Pittsburgh hitters as he struck out lead off hitter Adam Frazier and then worked around a single by Josh Bell for a scoreless frame. Two more strikeouts followed in the 2nd inning before Colin Moran hit a solo shot to right-centerfield. But Wainwright retired the next batter he faced.
The 3rd inning was a different story. Five of six batters reached base for the Pirates, including a 2-run homer by Starling Marte. Wainwright saw his pitch count climbing and Tyson Ross began to loosen in the Cardinals bullpen. A visit by pitching coach Mike Maddux helped.
“Mad Dog came over to me and said ‘Hey, remember you’re a great pitch maker, you don’t have to kind of reach back and get more. You just make pitches and just execute.'” said Wainwright. “That is when I’m at my best. That’s always my game, executing pitches and keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate.”
The 4th and 5th innings resulted in better execution from Wainwright, who retired all six batters he faced. Five of those six batters grounded out.
Wainwright finished with a line of 5.0 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs, and 3 strikeouts. He threw 81 pitches (56 strikes).
“A lot of balls in the middle of the plate, especially that one inning,” assessed Wainwright. “I turned it down just a hair going forward, but my first two innings I felt great. I can live with the home run–the first home run. I just didn’t execute a pitch. My arm felt great. That’s going to happen occasionally. I don’t like that I didn’t execute it, but the way that the ball was coming out and then the 3rd inning, I went out there and I wanted to do a little bit more instead of just staying there and I’ve just got to stay right there.”
That 3rd inning was the first adversity Wainwright had faced on the mound since he began his return. Through his six rehab appearances he had thrown 17.0 scoreless innings.
“In the back of your mind when you go on a rehab assignment, especially for as long as I did, you go alright, I had success in the minor leagues, is it good enough here?,” explained Wainwright. “I think so, but there’s a little thought in the back of your mind. But walking out there, I knew that it was. My stuff is good, I just have to execute it.
“I threw some good fastballs, sporadically. I threw some good breaking balls today. I threw some okay cutters and didn’t use my changeup at all which I’ve been using pretty regular in the minors. There’s things to work on.”
And based on tonight, Adam Waiwright will have that chance to do so.
“I think we feel good about that,” said Mike Shildt. “He had a rough inning, a few pitches made him pay for it but retired his last six. We’ll see how he recovers but he’s earned the opportunity to go again.”
–Besides treatment on his elbow, Wainwright also made a change to his arm swing which has paid off.
“I used to kind of lift with my elbow and twerk it back,” he explained. “I still do that a little bit but I have a longer arm swing now and that’s made all the difference in the world with me being able to recover pitch to pitch.”
The change in arm swing has also helped his velocity. Wainwright topped out at 92mph, but was consistently around the 90mph mark with his fastball in the game. Previously, he was struggling to pass 83mph.
1600 AND COUNTING…
–In the 2nd inning, Wainwright struck out Corey Dickerson. It marked the 1600th strikeout of his career, which ranks second behind Bob Gibson (3117) in St. Louis Cardinals franchise history.
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports