JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright made his second spring appearance Saturday, and was much happier with his 52 pitches than he was after his last outing.
“After my last start, I needed to take a step back and really work on some things. Now, I’m going to continue to work on things, but I have a good base where I can build off,” he said. “The important thing for me today was doing a better job executing. I backed off a hair in several different ways and tried to really focus down, really focus on driving the ball through the target.”
Wainwright felt he was out of sync in his first start, and spent the intervening days working to correct mechanical flaws in his delivery.
“I was working on staying in line better. My alignment was a bit off last time. I was working on keeping my hands a little more quiet. My front arm was too stiff last time, causing me to pull horizontally instead of toward the target,” he said.
The 34-year-old threw four innings, striking out two and walking one. He gave up three hits while he workshopped his pitches, but was pleased with his ability to iron out the imperfections in his motion.
Wainwright’s calling card is his thorough knowledge of his own delivery, which he uses to make rapid fire corrections when things go awry. Ultimately, that’s what his spring appearances are for, finding the keystones of his mechanics that tell him why something isn’t working.
“You have to have those during the season. Where you miss a certain spot- not saying I’m going to miss ever this year- but if I were to miss at some point during this season, it would be nice to be able to make a quick adjustment.”
Saturday’s outing was Wainwright’s longest since April 25, 2015, when his season was derailed by a torn Achilles. The Astros gave his surgically repaired leg a workout when, in a three out span from the first to the second inning, he popped off the mound to field two grounders and sprinted over to first to cover on a third. He looked as confident as ever, and said after the game he hasn’t concerned himself with worrying about his lower half.
“I like bouncing around out there a little bit,” he said. “I haven’t thought about my leg at all. I just got done running, doing gassers out there (sprints). My legs feel great. I can’t complain about that at all.”
After missing the majority of the team’s 100 wins last year, it’s no mystery Wainwright wants to bury any memory of his injury and move on. He rejoins a rotation that he believes can be one of the best in baseball, even after setting the standard so high last season. After a winter that featured a thorough dissection of the Cardinal roster in the wake of some notable departures, Wainwright is unfazed. He maintains his trademark optimism, and his annual belief the team can return to the Fall Classic.
“I am very biased, I’m a homer, I’m all those things. I’m optimistically, enthusiastically rooting for us to win the World Series every single year,” he said. “I am very excited about this team this year. I think our pitching staff has a chance to be very special. And I think we have some position players that are going to shine … The talent in this room is the same or better than last year, in my mind.”
Adding to that, he closed his assessment with high praise for the bullpen, which he called the best in his tenure with the Cardinals. “I don’t see much of a weak spot down there to be honest with you,” he said.
The only thing he wasn’t eager to talk about was the media darlings of the NL Central, whose offseason blitzkrieg made them World Series favorites before the first game of spring.
“There’s no reason to talk about the Cubs today. I just got done pitching against the Astros, in Florida, on March 12th. We’ll deal with the Chicago Cubs when we play the Chicago Cubs,” Wainwright said. “First we have to beat all these teams in spring, then we have to beat the Pirates, then we have to beat the Braves and then we have to beat a bunch of other teams before the Cubs.”
If you’re counting, the Cardinals play four teams before Chicago comes to town on April 18 for a 7:15 game. You’ll never guess whose starting schedule lines up perfectly for that night.