JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) – As thunder rumbled in the background behind the Cardinals’ clubhouse, Adam Wainwright assessed his performance and declared himself ready to start the 2016 season for the Redbirds.
The big righty threw 71 pitches in the rain-shortened game, the final tuneup before the Cards face the Pirates Sunday in the season opener.
“I’ve got a few things to work on, (like) my direction toward home plate. I’m leaking a little toward first base and I’m not as sharp as I want. I went deeper in counts than I wanted to. We’ve got a great defense and I wanted to make them work.”
Still the Cards acknowledged ace said that while he was hoping to have 70-80 crisp pitches, he is very close to where he wants to be, needing just a few minor adjustments to be ready for Sunday. He acknowledged that he threw more balls than he wanted to, but he also looks at what kind of balls and what kind of strikes he was throwing as he assesses his performance.
Wainwright said his preparation for Sunday’s start will begin tomorrow, as he reviews past Pirate games and films of their recent spring training games. “I pitch to every hitter like it’s the last time I’ll ever face him,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve done it my entire career.”
He also acknowledged the honor of being selected to start the season does not get old, despite this, the fifth (sixth if you ask him) season that he has done so. “When the manager says he wants you to start . . . you never forget that.” But, the 34-year-old acknowledged, he has to prepare himself mentally for the adrenaline rush that comes with starting the first game of the season, something he has learned to do over the course of his career.
Spring training is not representative of the jolt a pitcher gets from the intensity, the presence of 50,000 fans, the lights, and, of course, his own expectations, he said. Learning how to control high adrenaline games has been a part of his maturation as a pitcher.
He’s also happy for new Pirate and former teammate David Freese who signed a deal with the Pirates in the off-season and will likely open the year at third base. Wainwright called Pittsburgh a quality organization with a good manager who has a chance to “do some cool things” as the team improves.
But at 12:05 p.m. Sunday, all that will be forgotten as Wainwright leads his team onto the field for the first game of the 2016 season. “I expect to be very good this year,” he says simply.