ST. LOUIS — For much of the second half of last season, Adam Wainwright was not himself. Despite aberrations in his numbers, skipped starts and MRIs, the message out of Busch Stadium was that concerns were overblown. When he opted to have surgery on his elbow after the season, it was clear the situation was more serious than advertised.
Sunday, he gave a clear picture of what he was dealing with in his 32-year-old season, describing the year as “a string of injuries.”
“Ever since my New York start, if it wasn’t one thing it was another,” he said, referring to the April 22 game against the Mets in which he hyperextended his knee.
From there, he compensated to protect himself, which led to a tweak in his forearm. He compensated to protect that and injured the back of his arm. So it went until he found himself removing pitches from his arsenal to protect his arm.
“At the end of the year, the full extension was the problem. So you saw me throwing a lot of cutters and a lot of curveballs” he said. “The further I went, the more afraid I was that it was going to hurt. So I would kind of compensate and kind of pull back a little bit.”
Wainwright, in his characteristically easygoing tone, explained he was unable to pronate his wrist (for an example, hold your hand out palm down and twist your wrist to point your thumb at the floor). Without that action, it becomes nearly impossible for a right-hander to control inside fastballs to righties.
“The thing that I do really well when I’m healthy is I pitch inside to righties and lefties. I was able to sink the ball inside to righties really well early in the year, and when I do that it opens up the outside corner,” the Cardinal ace explained. “I totally lost that because I couldn’t pronate.”
Despite the reduced range of motion and no doubt considerable pain, Wainwright finished September 5-0. For that, he praised the training staff’s ability to help him prepare for each start. Off the field, however, simple tasks required herculean effort.
“I was holding a Sprite can on the plane and I went to open it. I kind of had to grab it sideways and I couldn’t even support the weight of a Sprite can. Occasionally it would get hot like that and turn off,” he said simply. Wainwright’s wife ended up having to open the can for him.
“My masculinity took a hit at the end of the year,” he chuckled. “Jars were not happening. Anything that required my arm twisting didn’t really work, so I had to hand it to my wife.”
After a pause, he enthusiastically offered, “I can open jars now, though. Do you want me to?”
Post-surgery, the 20-game winner says he’s on track for a normal spring. He started playing catch on the same day as he did last year, and says he’s on schedule to be 100 percent.
“I’m fixed now. I have a bionic arm now, right? So I should be able to go for a few more years.,” he said with a big smile. “I’ve got four more years (on his contract) and this team doesn’t need me half speed. There are guys that are better than me when I’m half speed.”
So Wainwright is going full speed until told otherwise, with a matchup against Jon Lester and the Cubs waiting on Opening Night.