Wainwright 'adamant' about improving health
Cards encouraged by ace's sincerity, plan to evaluate options to avoid future issues
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright remains in line to start a potential Game 5 of the National League Championship Series after asserting to club officials the soundness of his right elbow on Sunday. At the same time, general manager John Mozeliak spoke of seeking ways to avoid such questions in the future.
"We just talked, and he was very adamant that this is the best he's felt after a start in a long time, which is great news," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "And, you know, we're beyond the, 'Just tell me what I want to hear' kind of garbage. This was sincere. He was excited for the fact that his arm felt as good as it felt, so that's encouraging to hear, and I can't wait to watch him pitch again."
As far as the bigger picture, Mozeliak was asked whether the Cardinals might do more to manage Wainwright's late-season workload in future seasons to avoid the sort of issues Wainwright has managed over the past two months. He experienced a tired arm phase in August, and complained of discomfort at the back of his elbow following a NL Division Series loss to the Dodgers.
Mozeliak's response was a definitive yes.
"I do think that is a worthy offseason discussion," he said. "I think historically we have looked at ways to try and protect our pitchers. Clearly, in Adam's case, being a veteran and his status on the team, we haven't really pulled the reins on him as much as we have on some of the younger players. Having said that, given everything he's done the last couple years and taking it in an aggregate sense, yeah, we probably do need to look at that this offseason."
Mozeliak added: "I don't feel like he's in a position where he's hurt or is going to hurt himself. He's just not maybe as fresh as he once was when he was pitching at the highest level in September."
Wainwright has not been sharp in two October starts so far, jamming 200 pitches into only nine innings of work.
But after a 98-pitch, 4 2/3-inning grind against the Giants in Saturday night's 3-0 loss in Game 1 of the NLCS, Wainwright insisted the elbow was a non-issue. He pointed instead to some significant mechanical flaws discovered during an in-game video session with catcher A.J. Pierzynski related to Wainwright's arm action and stride length.
"The first thing I asked him was, is he physically OK? He said yes, which I know people have been questioning for a while here," Pierzynski said. "And then second of all, he's like, 'What do you see?' I was like, 'Sometimes this is what I see out of you when you're good, this is what I see when you're struggling, you're up a little bit, not as sharp, this is what I see.'
"We did some side-by-side stuff, and he said, 'Wow, that might actually happen and that's something I thought about in the past, but I thought I had that pretty licked.' Last night, as we watched it, as the game went, you could see it getting a little bit worse as the innings went by. It's something that will hopefully help, and in the next start, he will be better."
Wainwright, who has not thrown a bullpen session between starts since August, said he was now healthy enough to work on those issues during a throwing session this week.
"The next time I go out there, I'll have full confidence," Wainwright said. "The goal is not to get through five here; I want to pitch nine innings, and I know I have the ability to do that."
Asked whether anything would preclude him from starting again in this series, Wainwright said, "I would hope not. No. After tonight, I feel dramatically better than after my last start. So I would hope that's not an issue."
Matheny fielded the same question: Is there any chance Wainwright misses his next start?
"With what I know now, I'd say no," Matheny said. "We are always flexible and waiting to see, but this is our ace. We're not here now if we don't have him. When he feels right -- and sometimes it goes from start to start -- we want him on the mound as much as anybody in the game."