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I'm still pulling for Waino, but his first spring start doesn't give me much hope

Adam Wainwright got through two innings of his first spring training start, and it didn't inspire a lot of confidence.
Adam Wainwright got through two innings of his first spring training start, and it didn't inspire a lot of confidence. AP

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright managed to put up a couple of zeros in his spring training debut.

But, unfortunately, the rest of his performance Thursday didn’t do much to convince Redbirds rooters that he’s magically turned back the clock to a time when age and injuries hadn’t dulled a pitcher who was once one of the best mound men in the game.

While Wainwright didn’t break in his two innings of work, he certainly bent as far as he could without snapping. The veteran right-hander allowed five baserunners in between six outs, surrendering a pair of hits and three walks. He also struck out three batters.

Typically, early in the spring we could dismiss such erratic work as the product of a winter of gathering rust. But Wainwright, once a guy who fine tuned his mechanics meticulously, has had an awful time the last two season in executing his pitches. He, apparently, lost his legs after suffering a torn Achilles tendon while attempting to run to first base. That’s the sort of injury that never really heals 100 percent. I keep hoping Wainwright will find a way to work around it. But his fastball isn’t what it used to be and the torn tendon seems to keep him from stretching out like he needs to in order to make his curveball work correctly.

Just because he wasn’t sharp in his first start of the spring doesn’t mean that Wainwright can’t get himself together before the games count. He dismissed his struggles after the game, telling the media that he was experimenting with some things, which is something that isn’t unusual at this time of the year. But I keep hoping Wainwright will have an a-ha moment when he suddenly finds the missing ingredient that turns him back into the ace he was for such a long time. I certainly didn’t see that element today.

I’m not here to pick on Wainwright, one of my all-time favorite Cardinals players. But it makes me crazy that the front office seems to be counting on him to be healthy and effective when all signs point to the fact that he’s barely hanging on as a bottom part of the rotation starter. Meanwhile, several quality starters remain on the free agent market, just begging for the Birds to sign them to give Carlos Martinez some assistance at the top of the rotation.

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Marcell Ozuna is congratulated by teammates Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez after hitting a solo home run, his first as a Cardinal, during the second inning of a spring training game March 1 against the Minnesota Twins in Jupiter, Fla. AP

On the bright side, Thursday, there were some things that St. Louis fans could be excited about:

  • Newly acquired slugger Marcel Ozuna showed off his power stroke by clubbing his first home run of the spring.

  • The star of the Cardinals spring camp so far, Adolis Garcia, was 3-for-3 and scored a run. He’s hitting .462 with a 1.331 on-base plus slugging mark in pre-season play.

  • Outfield prospect Randy Arozarena collected two hits in four trip to the plate to raise his Grapefruit League batting average to .375.

Another thing that has been encouraging to see this spring is that the Cardinals certainly have more speed in the organization than they’ve had for a long time. Garcia, Arozarena, fellow outfield prospect Oscar Mercado (who stole his third base of the spring Thursday), Harrison Bader and others can certainly fly. It will be interesting to see how much that speed game will affect the way the St. Louis front office shapes the Cardinals roster in the next couple of years.