Post Content Cardinals News 

March 2nd, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. — Ever the optimist, Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright refused to obsess over his continued velocity dropoff on Thursday. He instead reminded those tracking it that his latest performance was actually an improvement over his first Spring Training start five days earlier.

Underlying issues — such as leg/glute stiffness caused by a recent bout with back spasms and a torn finger blister — also served as arguments to keep the 18-year MLB veteran from feeling too despondent after he surrendered exit velocities of greater than 100 mph four times.

The Astros blanked the Cardinals, 6-0, after Wainwright allowed three earned runs and five hits — one of them being a mammoth 437-foot home run that left Jos? Abreu’s bat at 112.1 mph — over three innings on Thursday. Of particular concern is that Wainwright’s sinker (84.9 mph, down 3.7 mph from 2022), cutter (80.8 mph, down 3.5 mph), curveball (70.2 mph, down 2.7 mph), four-seam fastball (83.7 mph, down 4.3 mph) and changeup (77.9 mph, down 4.3 mph) are lacking the zip of his average velocities from 2022.

Afterward, Wainwright addressed the velocity issues with the calm of a 41-year-old pitcher and someone with nearly two decades and 195 wins worth of professional experience.

“I was actually 2 [mph] up today over what I was last time,” Wainwright said with a smile. “My left leg and my glute are not firing through. Even when I sprint right now, I’m not really getting that [left] leg up like I want to, and I’ve got to work through some things. Three starts from now, if I’m still throwing 86, you can talk to me about [velocity]. But we’re making good strides.”

Also of concern is that Thursday’s outing was Wainwright’s final start before leaving Cardinals camp to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. If Team USA wins the title — as it did in 2017 — Wainwright will be away from the team until at least March 21. St. Louis opens the regular season nine days later at Busch Stadium.

Manager Oli Marmol said Wainwright’s extensive track record proves he will do what it takes to get himself ready by Opening Day. Between Thursday’s rocky outing and that point, Marmol expects Wainwright will solve the leg, glute and back issues that have kept his velocity from being where it was throughout the 2022 season.

“Just to be clear, it’s not an injury deal; it’s about him not syncing his body up correctly, and he didn’t feel like he was getting the leg drive he typically gets,” Marmol said. “After doing some [strength] assessments, it’s something he can solve. This is a veteran, and he knows what he needs to do. Waino’s going to do that whether he’s here or not, and that’s a trust thing that I’m not concerned with.”

Velocity was no concern on Thursday for Cardinals shortstop prospect Masyn Winn on his sixth-inning throw from the middle infield to first. Even with Houston’s Grae Kessinger hitting a top speed of 27.6 feet per second, he wasn’t fast enough to beat a throw of 99.9 mph from behind the bag at second by Winn.

The throw was reminiscent of the Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect hitting 100.5 mph on a throw from shortstop in last summer’s SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. On his latest throw, Winn said he’s better learned not to rush himself while still being able to use his arm talent to record the out.

“That was Kessinger running, and I forgot he had a little bit of speed and I saw him hustling down the line,” said Winn, who had a line-drive single for his fourth hit of Spring Training — second most among all Cardinals. “I tried to get it over there as quick as I could. I wasn’t trying to throw it hard or anything. I haven’t really gotten to show [my arm strength] to these guys yet, so that was cool.”

What was not cool for Wainwright on Thursday was seeing Houston’s Abreu (112.1 mph), Kyle Tucker (106.5 mph), Jake Meyers (104.5 mph) and Will Wagner (104.7 mph) turn around his pitches with rockets off the bat.

“I’ve got like nine days between this [outing] and the next one and I’ll be able to do long toss and some good weight-room stuff,” said Wainwright, who burned his index finger on a sausage skillet earlier in the week. “There was a little more life on my stuff today. Last time, I gave up a run, but I didn’t have a hard-hit ball. Today, I made two bad pitches that got hit really hard.”