ST. LOUIS -- One late April day in the not-too-distant future, Adam Wainwright will celebrate the Cardinals' home opener in something other than spikes. He'll be allowed to leave early if he wishes, or not show up at all. But the smart money says he will return, a modern hero
ST. LOUIS -- One late April day in the not-too-distant future, Adam Wainwright will celebrate the Cardinals' home opener in something other than spikes. He'll be allowed to leave early if he wishes, or not show up at all. But the smart money says he will return, a modern hero among aging ones, squeeze his tall frame into one of the motorcades and wave. Then, Wainwright will watch the next generation run into another season of baseball in St. Louis.
But that day was not Thursday, not yet. Wainwright hurried back from the disabled list, with a tender hamstring, to start against the D-backs. It could be the last home opener in St. Louis for Wainwright, who is in the final year of his contract. Only Bob Gibson has opened the club's home schedule more often.
Wainwright's fifth home-opener start was not his longest. The veteran right-hander battled control issues for much of an abbreviated night, walking four and throwing 89 pitches in 3 2/3 innings. He left after Paul DeJong's error extended the fourth in front of D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt, as the Cardinals trailed, 3-0.
With runners on the corners, reliever Matt Bowman quenched the threat by retiring Goldschmidt on an infield pop. Wainwright allowed three runs on four hits, striking out three.
After straining his hamstring during conditioning drills in the final week of Spring Training, Wainwright was scratched from his start on the last day of Grapefruit League play and placed on the 10-day disabled list. That was exactly 10 days prior to Thursday's home opener, which the Cardinals adjusted their rotation to allow Wainwright to start. It was an honor the Cardinals wanted for the pitcher who has won more games at Busch Stadium III than any other.
Until early this week, Wainwright's injury was thought to put Thursday's start out of reach. Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals' No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, who was promoted after Wainwright went on the DL, pitched well in his season debut in Milwaukee. He was optioned back to Triple-A Memphis when Wainwright proved his hamstring was no longer an issue.
"Waino has been a consistent component or fixture of this club, and he certainly deserves the opportunity to pitch," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said before the game. "Candidly, he had a great spring. He really did. So did Flaherty. But we have five spots. When you look at what Adam's body of work means, plus recently, how he's looked, he certainly deserves this opportunity."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.