ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Adam Wainwright isn’t shy about boasting about his bat. He’s president of the fan club for his own swing, and he’ll never back down from a challenge.
So when the idea of pitchers getting into the action at the Home Run Derby began circulating, his ears perked up.
“All these starting pitchers and relievers used to be the best hitters on their high school team. Everybody thinks they’re pretty good at this game,” he said before Tuesday’s game against the Astros. “Even if you threw it out there as a joke to any pitcher in the league, their eyes would light up. And they’d think they’re going to win, by the way.”
Madison Bumgarner got the conversation going when he said he wanted to throw his hat in the ring for the mid-summer slugfest, and he and Wainwright talked about it when the San Francisco ace was in St. Louis.
In batting practice, Bumgarner hit a ball into the fourth deck- above Big Mac Land- offering proof-of-concept that hurlers could thrill an audience with their swing as well. Wainwright was awed, and the two got to talking.
“I saw Albert hit one up there, and Nelson Cruz hit one up there I heard. That doesn’t happen often. It’s way back there,” the 34-year-old said, marveling at the power in Bumgarner's swing. The two know the odds are long that they'd get to show off their swings for a national audience, but they're enjoying the dream.
“It’s fun (to think about). It’s probably going nowhere but it creates some buzz,” Wainwright said.
Cubs ace Jake Arrieta added to the buzz over the weekend when he joined the chorus of pitchers calling for a shot at the Derby.
Bumgarner is certainly the best candidate of the three, belting 13 home runs in his career. Wainwright has seven, and Arrieta’s three have all come in the past two years.
As confident as Wainwright is, he isn’t claiming he could take down traditional sluggers. He just wants a shot at his peers.
“Among pitchers I’d do very well,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s one swing. I love it.”
The Georgia native has been strong at the plate this season, belting a home run, four doubles and a triple. He’s slugging .652 and has driven in 10 runs. In the Cardinals’ extra-inning win in Pittsburgh over the weekend, the big righty delivered a two-out, two-run double as a pinch hitter in the 12th inning. At the time they were the go-ahead runs, though the Cardinals would go on to win 9-3.
Talking to reporters in St. Louis Tuesday, he chuckled at the reminder that Babe Ruth started out as a pitcher, winning 94 games before making the switch to full-time batsman. Wainwright has 126 victories, putting him ahead of Ruth, though he doesn’t have much time to close the 707-homer gap between them.
“I got a lot more wins to get as a pitcher first. Babe Ruth was a little bit younger than I was when he made the switch. So I’m probably going to stick with pitching for the time being,” he said. “But you never know, the independent leagues may call.”