PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Adam Wainwright was thrilled to have his Grapefruit League season end in Port St. Lucie, the site of his biggest hiccup this spring."I need a rematch," Wainwright told pitching coach Derek Lilliquist days after being pummeled by the Mets in a spring start here. He
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Adam Wainwright was thrilled to have his Grapefruit League season end in Port St. Lucie, the site of his biggest hiccup this spring.
"I need a rematch," Wainwright told pitching coach Derek Lilliquist days after being pummeled by the Mets in a spring start here. He allowed 10 earned runs in 1 2/3 innings that day, a line ugly enough that it bothered the veteran right-hander even though it'll be erased at month's end.
That was on March 17. On Tuesday, Wainwright returned to face the Mets and left with a start that he found much more palatable. There were mistakes -- most notably an elevated fastball that Lucas Duda crushed for a three-run homer -- but there was also a renewed focus.
"My stuff was dramatically better," Wainwright explained. "I think last time, though, more than anything, which led to bad stuff, was mentally I didn't punch in. I didn't punch the timecard that day. I just went out there and threw the ball. And there was no conviction behind anything. I really wanted to work on the conviction."
Wainwright's spring ERA, now 7.78, never recovered from that forgettable St. Patrick's Day outing. But Wainwright hopes that over six starts this month, he has refined a repertoire that wasn't always reliable in 2016. He'll leave Florida having found his old curveball grip and with a growing confidence that the changeup is a pitch he can use more liberally.
Wainwright garnered four outs with his changeup in Tuesday's five-inning start. He also saw the velocity of his cutter go up.
"My stuff is where it needs to be," Wainwright said. "Now I need to take that, and I need to be more fine down in the zone. I need to pound down in the zone better. I'm up a little more than I want to be. But stuff-wise, my stuff is very good."
A few of those elevated pitches turned into hits for the Mets, who tallied five off Wainwright in Tuesday's 3-3 tie. Wainwright didn't walk a batter, and he struck out three. He threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes, while finishing five innings for the first time this spring.
His attention now turns to the Cubs, his opponent one week from Tuesday under the Busch Stadium lights.
"I know there's another level," manager Mike Matheny said. "I thought his stuff was good today. But even when he doesn't have it, he's going to find ways to make those balls go on the ground and give us more opportunities to make plays."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.