Wainwright 'not surprised' to be Cards' Game 1 starter

Wainwright 'not surprised' to be Cards' Game 1 starter
October 22, 2013, 9:30 pm
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Adam Wainwright missed the Cards' World Series appearance in 2011 and was their closer in 2006.

(AP Photo)

BOSTON --  When the Cardinals went to the World Series in 2011, beating the Rangers in seven games, right-hander Adam Wainwright was out after missing the entire season with Tommy John surgery.  So, to be back, healthy, and starting in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park is exactly what he wanted.
 
“It's important,” said Wainwright, who went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in the regular season, tied with Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman for the National League lead in wins.
 
“It's pretty special to me.  I've talked this year about the rehab after the Tommy John surgery, sometimes you can struggle a little at first to get that feel back.  And I never doubted that I would return, but you do have those thoughts that creep in where you for half a second wonder if you'll ever be any good anymore.  And to be able to pitch like I did this year and return to form, my stuff came back, and my ability that I knew was there kind of returned.  And to be able to have some big‑time playoff moments this year, it's been very special, something I'll never forget.”
 
Wainwright joked after the NLDS against the Dodgers that rookie sensation Michael Wacha, who won the clinching game, could get the Game 1 start in the World Series. Wacha is just one of a group of outstanding young pitchers in the Cardinals stable.
 
“I'm not surprised I'm pitching Game 1,” Wainwright said Tuesday afternoon. “I do think that for years and years to come, we're going to have ‑‑ those guys are going to push me, if I want to keep pitching Game 1s.  They're incredibly talented, they're pitching great.  And I couldn't ask for a better band of mates going forward.”
 
Wainwright, though, will enter uncharted territory. He has never faced the Red Sox or pitched in Fenway Park. How will he approach them?
 
“I can't tell you that, can I?” he joked. “It's the scouting report.  I know I'll have my work cut out for me.  One of my favorite things to do in the world is game plan for a game.  I love it.  I'll spend a good amount of time today and tomorrow coming up with a nice plan.  Yadi [catcher Yadier Molina] and I will get together tomorrow and we'll figure out a way to do it.”
 
While he missed the World Series two years ago, Wainwright pitched in the postseason in 2012, when the Cardinals lost to the Giants in the NLCS, despite being up three games to one. Wainwright was the winning pitcher in Game 4, the last game the Cardinals won.
 
“If I'm being honest, after Game 4 of the NLCS, I may have had one more start in me,” he said. “I was pretty well spent.  I gave every single thing I had.  I had terrible stuff last year.  I was trying to find a way to make it work.  There would be days where my stuff would be OK, and there would be days where I didn't have any stuff at all.  No fastball.  The fastball wasn't fast, the change‑up wasn't changing, the slider wasn't sliding.  The only thing I had was my curveball.  That saved me last year, and especially when I had no stuff to rely on except for that pitch.

“And to flip that into this year, where I felt from the very first day of long toss in the offseason, strong.  Where the very first throw the ball came out of my hand this offseason, and it was like seeing that old friend you hadn't seen in a long time.  It was like, there it is.  And not to say that I have the best stuff in the world, because we've got 15 guys on the team who throw harder with better breaking balls than I do, but to have my stuff return was pretty exciting.

“And this year I felt strong from the get‑go.  I felt strong throughout spring training.  Usually, I get a dead‑arm phase in spring training, I never once had a dead‑arm phase this entire year.  I did have a lapse of pitch ability in two games where I got my butt handed to me.  But other than that I felt pretty strong all year.”
 
And, now he is set to make his first World Series start, and his first appearance since 2006, when the Cardinals beat the Tigers and he was the Cards' closer.  He knows this will be different.
 
“I don't want to make it like an ordinary game,” he said. “I want this to mean even more than regular games.  What I found throughout my playoff career so far is that I respond really well when the adrenaline really kicks in.  I love that.  The crowd gets louder.  I get more fired up.  That's something that I just ‑‑ I can't tell you how cool it is to pitch in front of great crowds like we're going to have tomorrow here in Boston, and we're going to have in St. Louis with that crisp, cool air, that Octobery kind of air, where you know it's playoff baseball.

This is my favorite time of year, for many reasons.  There's NFL football on TV, there's college football on TV, there's hunting season, there's playoff baseball.  It does not get much better than that.”