The day after outdueling Adam Wainwright, Highland's Jake Odorizzi met his boyhood hero.
Odorizzi, who struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings in Tampa Bay's 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, was talking to the Cardinals' Joe Kelly on Wednesday behind the batting cage when Wainwright approached. The two had not met until then.
"He just said hello and a 'nice-to-meet-you' sort of thing," Odorizzi said. "We exchanged some words and I talked to him. We talked pitching a little bit, talked shop. He's a really nice guy."
Wainwright enjoyed the interaction.
"The first thing he told me was he watched me when he was a kid, and that made me feel kind of old," said Wainwright, 32, who is eight years, 209 days older than Odorizzi. "I don't have many of those (fans) yet. I used to think it was so cool when somebody would come up to (Chris) Carpenter and say that."
Wainwright remembers experiencing a similar feeling as a young prospect with the Atlanta Braves in the early 2000s.
"I know how I felt getting to have spring training with 'Smoltzie' (John Smoltz) and (Tom) Glavine and (Greg) Maddux and those guys, how neat that was for me," Wainwright said. "If (Odorizzi) is feeling anywhere close to the way I was feeling, that's pretty special to me, even.
"It's cool for him, maybe, but it's as cool or cooler for me to actually being somebody's person. He seems like a very well-grounded person, and obviously he's a great pitcher, too. I'm happy to see good people succeed in this game."
The Rays fell behind the Cardinals 1-0 in the first when Matt Carpenter homered against an admittedly hyped-up Odorizzi.
But Odorizzi's squeeze in the second tied the game, and Tampa Bay took charge with a five-run fifth that knocked out Wainwright.
"I made it easy for him," Wainwright said. "He pitched great against us in Tampa, too (June 10). But when you come home and pitch in front of your hometown crowd ... The first time I pitched in Atlanta was that way. I remember facing Andruw Jones and Chipper (Jones) and how hard that was for me just knowing those guys were my idols and how cool it was to face them. It's hard to not be kind of in a fog.
"So (Odorizzi) did a very good job of keeping his emotions and keeping his body in check. He's got great swing-and-miss stuff right now, so hopefully we'll see him stay healthy and do that for years to come."
Odorizzi settled into a rhythm in the first. After the home run, he walked Kolten Wong, but Wong was erased at second on a stolen-base attempt and center fielder Desmond Jennings then hauled in Matt Holliday's long drive in right-center.
The only other run Odorizzi allowed was a sixth-inning homer by Holliday that cut the Rays' lead to 6-2.
"Usually, I have a pretty good feel for the pitcher's tempo," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said Wednesday. "I could tell (Odorizzi) was just way sped up --with everything he was doing. He was trying to get the ball back and go as fast as he could. Mentally, I could tell he was a little frazzled.
"He said to me, 'Yeah, I'm real nervous. Just tell me something to calm me down.' I said, 'Just get out of the first inning. Grind through this one and you're going to be fine. Trust me.' After that, he was great. He calmed down and his tempo got better."
Longoria said even the most experienced major-leaguers occasionally battle nervousness.
"My first at-bat, I was real nervous in the game," Longoria said. "The lesson is, for young kids, we experience those things, too. This guy is an elite major-league pitcher and a little bit of an element change and it's like he's pitching for the first time again on his little-league team."