Finally, all systems are go for Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright was cleared to participate in all baseball activities Monday. He will throw a bullpen Tuesday and a simulated game by the weekend, and the St. Louis Cardinals then will determine whether to put them on their active roster.
Wainwright, who has been sidelined most of this season with a torn left Achilles’ tendon, would be a reliever if he is able to return.
“I’m pretty close now,” Wainwright said of his physical ability to pitch. “I don’t expect (arm strength) to be a hurdle at all just because I’ve been throwing for so long. I was backing up farther than I’ve ever long-tossed ... for weeks and weeks and weeks until I got on the mound finally. I’ve already sort of had my five spring training appearances.
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“First things first. I’ve got to go out there and throw to hitters over the weekend. First things first before that even. I’ve got to continue to gain strength and quickness and agility.”
Wainwright has been throwing bullpens since August and has been happy with his command.
“It’s been good,” he said. “I’ve been increasing my velocity and my tempo, all those things, to get them as close to game speed as I possibly can before I face hitters, so I should be ready.”
The good news about Wainwright offset the loss of catcher Yadier Molina, who was diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his left thumb that could sideline him for the season.
“He’s someone who has worked very diligently over the last four, five months to get back to where he is,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said. “It just shows you his commitment and desire to want to be on this club and contribute with this club. Between him and (rehab coordinator) Adam Olsen and others who have worked with him, they’ve done a great job.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he never had any doubt Wainwright would return, although he didn’t want to make those feeling public until Monday.
“I anticipated it,” he said. “I’ve been watching him throw his bullpens. I’ve been watching him strut around, and he’s been telling everybody this was going to happen. So I don’t know why we’re surprised.
“The early messaging was that there wasn’t much of a chance we’d see him this year. I think that’s probably exactly what he wanted to hear to prove people wrong. But still, steps forward. There are some things that he needs to be able to do before he gets back out there and help us. But it’s exciting to hear that he’s moving forward.”
Wainwright recalled a story that motivated him to push hard in his recovery.
“I was at Bob Costas’ charity event (May 23) and a guy looked me right in the eyes, a 50-year-old man, and said, ‘I was back climbing mountains in five months after my surgery, so if you can’t do it, you’re a wuss,’” Wainwright said. “I said, ‘Dadgum. OK. All right.’
“I thought it was possible. Doctors give you these very safe numbers. They have to, to protect you and them. You can always shave off a couple of months if everything happens perfectly, and everything so far, luckily, has happened perfectly.”
Wainwright said it’s imperative that he pitch in the regular season to be considered for a postseason roster spot.
“I think it’s probably important that I get something in, proving to my manager and my players as well that I’m capable of getting big-league hitters out,” he said. “I think you’ve got to pass certain things before you can go on to the next step.”
Randal Grichuk started in the field Monday for the first time since a failed attempt to play center Sept. 9 when his elbow hadn’t healed enough to throw.
In that game, Grichuk fielded a first-inning double by the Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and flipped the ball to right fielder Jason Heyward, who made the relay to the infield.
Grichuk’s arm has made progress in the last week to 10 days.
“He’s throwing the ball pretty well right now,” Matheny said. “Him a little less than everything is still better than a lot of guys in the league. I know he’s been anxious to get back out there.”
Grichuk threw out Cincinnati’s Eugenio Suarez in the sixth when Suarez tried to stretch a single into a double.
Grichuk played left because the Cardinals like what Tommy Pham is doing in center. Pham was 9-for-24 (.375) with four home runs on the road trip to Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Chicago.
The Cardinals still anticipate that Matt Holliday, who has been limited by a strained right calf, will play left field before the regular season ends Oct. 4.
“He’s not doing all this trying to come back and be a pinch-hitter or a DH. That doesn’t help us that much,” Matheny said. “We need to see how it looks when he gets in the field, and that’s what he’s shooting for.”
Blues Night at Busch
The Cardinals saluted the St. Louis Blues during the pregame, wearing Blues jerseys during batting practice.
Several Blues players were recognized before the game, including captain David Backes, assistant captain Alexander Steen, Steve Ott, Jaden Schwartz and Chris Butler.
Backes threw out the ceremonial first pitch.