JUPITER, Fla. -- He may be the elder statesman in the clubhouse, a pitcher with 352 career appearances and 148 wins, but Adam Wainwright took the field on Day 1 of Cardinals Spring Training once again looking to distinguish himself.This marks Wainwright's 16th spring with the organization, which agreed to
JUPITER, Fla. -- He may be the elder statesman in the clubhouse, a pitcher with 352 career appearances and 148 wins, but Adam Wainwright took the field on Day 1 of Cardinals Spring Training once again looking to distinguish himself.
This marks Wainwright's 16th spring with the organization, which agreed to help him extend his career by offering Wainwright a one-year contract last October. The deal was built around incentives, and little was promised the 37-year-old right-hander beyond an opportunity to prove he still had something to offer.
That starts now.
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"I've got to go out there and earn my spot," Wainwright said after the team wrapped up its rain-shortened workout on Wednesday. "When you pitch like I've pitched the last year and a half when I've hardly pitched, you haven't earned anything. I have to come in here and earn my spot."
The Cardinals intend to give Wainwright every chance to break camp as a starter. But his fit isn't a guarantee. In between six stints on the injured list the last four years, Wainwright has posted a 4.54 ERA. And he felt so discouraged at how his body was responding to rehab work last summer that he began preparing for retirement.
A healthy run of starts in September delayed those plans and thus led Wainwright back to Florida for another year. He arrives having had his first healthy offseason in three years and ready to prove that he belongs back in the rotation not because of anything he's previously accomplished, but for what he still can do.
"I'm not big man on the totem pole now," Wainwright said. "I'm old man on the totem pole. I'm not expecting to do anything except get outs."
Workouts get underway
Rainy weather forced some tweaks to manager Mike Shildt's first workout schedule, but it didn't stop everyone from getting a first glimpse of how much Major League-ready pitching the Cardinals have stockpiled.
When it comes to whittling down 33 pitchers to the 12 or 13 the team will carry north next month, the Cardinals will not have to manufacture competition. Nineteen of those pitchers have big league experience, and 10 could legitimately make a case for inclusion in the Opening Day rotation.
"One of the best things in Spring Training is five weeks from now when you're in the room talking about, 'Where do we pare down?'" pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "Tough decisions are a good thing. That's a real good thing. Unfortunately, I've been on other staffs where we had eight and then we started giving out scholarships."
Highlighting the group of 16 pitchers who threw side sessions on Wednesday were several competing for bullpen jobs. Those included Brett Cecil, John Brebbia, Jordan Hicks, Dominic Leone, Mike Mayers, Chasen Shreve, Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson. Top prospect Alex Reyes also took the mound.
"Knowing this organization well, obviously, in my tenure here, I can't remember a time when it was much deeper," Shildt, a 16-year member of the organization, said of the pitching. "That's quite a compliment."
Molina makes his mark
Though Yadier Molina has had no setbacks since undergoing left knee surgery two months ago, the Cardinals plan to limit how much catching work he does early this spring. That won't, however, minimize his impact.
Molina was not only an active observer while pitchers threw off the mound during a break in the rain on Wednesday, but he also helped lead a session on signs and controlling the running game with catchers and pitchers.
As for Molina's on-field activity, that will slowly increase in the coming weeks. The Cardinals expect him to be ready by Opening Day.
"Yadi is going to be gaining his strength," Shildt said. "He's not a guy, clearly, that we feel like we need to push. We're going to use the time with him, and he'll use the time himself, to continue to get [ready]."
• All 33 pitchers and nine catchers reported to Spring Training on time and passed their physicals, Shildt said. Veteran reliever Luke Gregerson is the only pitcher not scheduled to throw off the mound on one of the first two days of camp.
• Former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter was around as an extra instructor during Wednesday's workout.
"What I see in him [that is] honestly better than any of the managers I've had before at any level is he has an ability to communicate better than I've seen. That's not a knock on anyone else. Tony La Russa is a Hall of Fame manager. Mike Matheny won tons of games. But I haven't seen anyone communicate as well as Mike Shildt." -- Wainwright
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.