As Adam Wainwright enters the final year of his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, many are questioning if the 12-year veteran will return to St. Louis next year, or even continue to play in the big leagues.
Thursday morning at the team's spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida, Wainwright gathered a group of reporters to proactively address those questions.
“Let me just say this, I love being a St. Louis Cardinal,” Wainwright began by saying. “I’m not thinking about anything past today. I want to be the very best St. Louis Cardinal today, then tomorrow I want to be the very best St. Louis Cardinal tomorrow and we’ll do that every single day for the rest of this season and then we’ll see what happens.”
Wainwright, a three-time All Star, has finished in the top three in Cy Young voting four times. However, the 36-year-old has seen his production decline in recent years. Since a 2015 Achilles injury that ended his season early, Wainwright's season ERA rose to 4.62 in 2016 and 5.11 in 2017. Before the injury, Wainwright did not post a season ERA higher than 3.94 and won 19-plus games in four different seasons.
After a slow start in 2017, Wainwright said he pondered retirement.
“Last year I started out feeling really great, but I was not pitching great. I thought, man I don’t want to be not great at this game and I thought about retirement. Right when I did that I started pitching really well,” he said.
Around the time he started pitching well again, he got hurt, and eventually had surgery in the offseason to address a cartilage issue in his elbow. He says slimming down during the offseason will hopefully prevent injuries during 2018.
“Early in my career, the bigger I was, the stronger I felt. Last year, I came in feeling heavy and strong but I was very stiff." he said. "I believe being so stiff caused me to get hurt.”
At the outset of last year's spring training, Wainwright weighed 239-pounds. This year, he enters camp at a ‘lean’ 225.
“The goal wasn’t to lose weight. The goal was to become more lean and to get more function and more mobility,” he said.
Retirement and extension questions will hover over the 36-year-old for much of this season, but Wainwright knows by pitching effectively, he can keep those questions at bay. Well, at least till the end of the season.
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