Sure, it’s his first time pitching in a game since he was sidelined in 2010 and missed the entire 2011 season because of elbow surgery.
I’m normally not a butterfly guy. I expect some butterflies.
— Adam Wainwright
But after a year of rehab and waiting to get back on the mound, Wainwright knows Friday’s start against Minnesota won’t be just another day either.
“I’m normally not a butterfly guy. I expect some butterflies,” he said Sunday after throwing his final batting practice session in preparation for the appearance. “There have been several real key moments in my career that I had some butterflies. This year when I pitch at Busch Stadium for the first time, there’ll probably be some butterflies. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Wainwright threw around 30 pitches Sunday and said he approached it with the kind of intensity he usually reserves for game days during the regular season.
Wainwright will likely throw a bullpen session before boarding the bus for Friday for the 2½ hour ride to Ft. Myers. But he said he was maximizing the time against hitters.
“I wanted it to be as close to a simulated game as possible,” he said. “I knew I walked (Tyler Greene), so I went out and stretched the rest of that inning. Just to simulate what I would do in an inning. I did my normal warmups between innings and tried to think what I would normally think.
“There were a couple of pitches I wouldn’t have done during a game. But mostly I was trying to be me out there. This is my last hurdle and my last go of it.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny watched the session and said that it’s no secret that the coaching staff has been very deliberate with a guy they expect to again be at the core of the pitching rotation alongside Chris Carpenter.
“He’s been the one guy we’ve been clear about from the beginning that we’ve got to stay on the program with him,” Matheny said. “He’s been on track and to stay on track is really important.”
Matheny said Wainwright having to ride the bus Friday is just part of that.
“He understands,” Matheny said. “From this point forward, it’s working towards Opening Day. And if you get the buzzard luck of it on a trip up north or out west — it’s just how it falls.”
Interestingly enough, the Ft. Myers trip will bring about another first for Wainwright, who has never been to that facility before.
“Just a drive across the state for a couple of innings,” he said. “At this point I could care less where it is. I’d take a bus to Arizona to pitch in a game. I’m excited to get back on the hill.”
I’d take a bus to Arizona to pitch in a game. I’m excited to get back on the hill.
— Adam Wainwright
Wainwright acknowledged that this spring has been somewhat of an adjustment because he hasn’t been on his normal schedule because of the elbow rehab.
It’s why he said that Saturday may actually be a bigger day than Friday, because that’s when he’ll wake up and know exactly how his arm responded.
“Yeah, it’s different because in year’s past I know exactly how I’m gonna feel pretty much. So it was kind of a system that worked and got my arm ready more rapidly,” he said. “This year it’s kind of a different system that’s their system that I’ve been doing this whole time. So I really don’t know how my arm is gonna respond until the next day. But everything’s responding well.”
That has included the absence of the typical elbow tendinitis Wainwright has felt in previous springs.
But having not experienced being on a mound for a game since he won his 20th game in 2010, the only thing on the former All-Star’s mind is just being out there again.
“Yeah, it’s been awhile,” he said. “Strangely it went fast. Winning helped last year. And offseason down here in Florida is not exactly the worst place to be. I’ve been here longer than everybody else, but there are a lot worse places I could be.”
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
Wainwright expects ‘butterflies’ for spring start
ESPN.com – MLB
Latest MLB news from ESPN.com