PostCards: Adam Wainwright talks on day before the World Series


St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, who is starting Game 1 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, addressed the media during the workout day.
Oct 22, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws in the outfield during practice the day before game one of the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Image Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Q. Because of the injury that you had in 2011 and you were a fan and not a participant in the World Series, how, I guess, important is it to you, both personally and professionally, to not only be back at the World Series two years later but back making a contribution so soon?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: It’s important. It’s pretty special to me. I’ve talked this year about the rehab after the Tommy John surgery, sometimes you can struggle a little at first to get that feel back. And I never doubted that I would return, but you do have those thoughts that creep in where you for half a second wonder if you’ll ever be any good anymore. And to be able to pitch like I did this year and return to form, my stuff came back, and my ability that I knew was there kind of returned. And to be able to have some big‑time playoff moments this year, it’s been very special, something I’ll never forget.

Q. You mused in the previous round that the way Wacha was pitching that he’d be the Game 1 starter. Are you surprised you are or is it a good one‑two punch for the team?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: I’m not surprised I’m pitching Game 1. I do think that for years and years to come, we’re going to have ‑‑ those guys are going to push me, if I want to keep pitching Game 1s. They’re incredibly talented, they’re pitching great. And I couldn’t ask for a better band of mates going forward.

Q. Can you talk about your strength as a pitcher and how do you plan to pitch against this tough Red Sox lineup?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: I can’t tell you that, can I? It’s the scouting report. I know I’ll have my work cut out for me. One of my favorite things to do in the world is game plan for a game. I love it. I’ll spend a good amount of time today and tomorrow coming up with a nice plan. Yadi and I will get together tomorrow and we’ll figure out a way to do it.

Q. In speaking to some of the younger pitchers on your staff about you, they all told the same story about how they met you, and that was you went to them and stuck out your hand and introduced yourself. I’m curious, that is somewhat unusual I’m thinking. Why was that important to you? Why was that gesture important?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Something I like to do when we get a young guy, so that they know they can be comfortable around me. They don’t have to walk on eggshells. They don’t have to wonder if I’ve seen them. I remember being in that situation where you don’t quite know how to act around an older fellow, and all of a sudden I’m an older fellow. I respect that. I want those young guys to know they can come to me at any time with anything.

Q. Welcome back. I know your faith in Jesus Christ is important to you. Talk about what it means that the Lord has allowed you to come back on the biggest stage in baseball. What does that mean to you?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: To whom much is given, much is required. And I do not take that lightly. I know I’ve been given a tremendous platform here in St. Louis to be on stages like this talking, and when questions like that come about Jesus, it makes me smile. My source of strength, my reason for competing the way I do.

So it’s something I don’t mind talking about in a secular atmosphere, where people may believe or may not believe. It’s something I hold dearly and I cling to.

Q. Talking about your rehab a moment ago, curious to compare how you feel right now to how you felt in the postseason last year. They talk about Tommy John, sometimes you need a couple of years to be yourself, was that something you didn’t feel until this year at some level?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: If I’m being honest, after Game 4 of the NLCS, I may have had one more start in me. I was pretty well spent. I gave every single thing I had. I had terrible stuff last year. I was trying to find a way to make it work. There would be days where my stuff would be okay, and there would be days where I didn’t have any stuff at all. No fastball. The fastball wasn’t fast, the change‑up wasn’t changing, the slider wasn’t sliding. The only thing I had was my curveball. That saved me last year, and especially when I had no stuff to rely on except for that pitch.

And to flip that into this year, where I felt from the very first day of long toss in the offseason, strong. Where the very first throw the ball came out of my hand this offseason, and it was like seeing that old friend you hadn’t seen in a long time. It was like, there it is. And not to say that I have the best stuff in the world, because we’ve got 15 guys on the team who throw harder with better breaking balls than I do, but to have my stuff return was pretty exciting.

And this year I felt strong from the get‑go. I felt strong throughout Spring Training. Usually I get a dead‑arm phase in Spring Training, I never once had a dead‑arm phase this entire year. I did have a lapse of pitch ability in two games where I got my butt handed to me. But other than that I felt pretty strong all year.

Q. A couple of guys have talked about how a bit of a rallying cry to get Carlos Beltran to the World Series, and it was important to them as a team. You personally have a connection with him going back a ways. How much has it been a rallying cry for you guys? How much do you joke or have a laugh with him now considering it’s come full circle?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: We don’t joke about it. I don’t even bring that up. But one thing that was really cool after we won the other day in St. Louis, Carlos’s wife came up to me and said, “Can I take a picture of you and Carlos?” And I said “Yes.” And she said, “Back then it wasn’t in the Lord’s plan and now it is.” I’m getting chill bumps sharing that with you. It was such special to share right there at the end of that game. He’s playing 16, 17 years, he’s trying to get to the World Series for the first time. He’s been in three or four Game 7s he’s been so close, and to not get there, it’s really satisfying to get him there.

I actually had a dream, I told him this, I had a dream the day before that we lost, and we didn’t get to the World Series, and we weren’t the team to get him there. And he ended up signing with the Yankees next year (laughter). And the Yankees took him to the World Series. And I remember the gist of the dream was he was sitting on a podium like this saying, “I’m so happy to be a Yankee and in the World Series.” And I was like oh, my gosh. It was a nightmare (laughter).

Not that that’s not a great team, but I woke up and had sweats, and said we’ve got to be the team to get him here. No disrespect to the Yankees in the world. I know what the media can do (laughter). I think the New York Yankees are an amazing franchise.

Q. As baseball keeps adding teams to the postseason, how much harder is it to just get to the World Series, even for a team like you guys that has the best record in the league?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: It’s very hard. And that one‑game playoff thing, I mean, you will never hear me say anything, even if we go to the postseason next year and lose that one‑game playoff, which I hope never happens. I think that’s so good for baseball. I think it gives other cities chances to be excited about the playoff opportunity. You look at what the Pirates and the Reds got to do this last year. That was great for baseball. There were three teams in the division that had 90‑something wins. All three teams deserving of playoff chances.

We got that spot last year, and that one‑game playoff is a nightmare. To play in that thing, to know that you did have such a great season and it all came down to one game, it adds a lot of pressure to you. To win the division this year, to get in here the way we did, clinching home‑field advantage. For other teams it’s a much harder route. It’s hard to get to where we are right now.

Q. Shane Victorino has been hit by six pitches this postseason. How do you approach a guy like that? How do you think the rest of the staff is going to pitch him?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: I pitched against Shane many years. I know if he gets on base, he can wreak havoc. He’s very fast. He’s a very good baserunner. I don’t think anyone in our locker room is intentionally ever going to throw one and hit him on purpose, because they know the damage he can do on the basepaths.

I saw a couple of those breaking balls and it’s unintentional sometimes, but it will be interesting to see him right‑handed. I faced him left‑handed quite a bit. And I remember his first game attempting to switch‑hit when he was with the Dodgers in Double‑A. I played against him way back then, and all he could do is slash and run. The next time he came back and had more power from the left side, even more power lefty than righty. So it will be interesting to see him right‑handed.

Q. How do you define the Cardinal way?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Gosh, we need to start selling books about this. If you want to find out, buy the book. Cliff Notes version is, this is a way of thinking that we have in St. Louis and in our clubhouse and throughout our organization, an expectation of winning, an expectation of professionalism that comes with that winning, and doing things the right way. And that’s been taught and bred over the years from guys like Red Schoendienst, like Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith. All of these great Hall of Famers that you’ve grown to love, they’re still in our clubhouse hanging out, with the great Stan passing this offseason.

We are very blessed in St. Louis to have those guys in the red jackets around, and we still feel their presence there. We still feel their lessons.

Q. Did you ever get a chance to talk to Adrian Gonzalez and straighten things out during the LCS? And were you surprised how much that offhand comment about Mickey Mouse turned on the fans in St. Louis?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, anybody who took anything negative out my comments after that game did not watch the interview. I challenge anybody in the media to go back watch my interview and find something negative I said about the Los Angeles Dodgers. I have the utmost respect for them throughout that series. After they beat me there in LA, I poured out great comments about Ryu, the great game he pitched and all those other fellows over there that had put big at‑bats on me and stuff.

The whole intent of that interview was to try to get me to say something bad about Puig. I knew that, and I understand where the media is going with that, but I didn’t see anything. The only thing I saw, I said and I said it in jest, laughing, as you’ll see if you watch the interview‑‑ so it spun out of control. But that’s playoff baseball. If you don’t want something to happen, don’t say knuckleheaded things like that.

What I do know is this: we beat a very good team in Los Angeles. When we were on the field celebrating, we were very, very satisfied to beat a team that was so good as the Los Angeles Dodgers. We’re very glad to be here, but we know we have a job to do.

Q. Have you talked to Adrian?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: No, I haven’t talked to Adrian. I don’t know him, per se, very well.

Q. I talk to a lot of young pitchers today and they talk about what Chris Carpenter has meant to them, what has he meant to you this season?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Well, I would have to take it more than just this season, because he’s been ‑‑ there’s been two people in my life that have been the biggest influences on me in my baseball career: One is my brother and the other is Chris Carpenter. And my brother taught me how to throw the ball, taught me all my grips, my curveball, taught me where to stand, taught me the mindset of pitching, read books with me, cut out clippings.

And the other guy, Chris Carpenter, told me how to be a professional. Showed me what it took to get through that daily grind of pitching once every fifth day, and the team needs to rely on you and go out there and deliver a win. Telling me how to go about my workout between games, how to go about my running between games. He did a lot for me. To sum it up in just one sentence is really tough.

Q. The game is being broadcast live in Japan. Could you please tell us a little bit more about your curveball. The closer for the Red Sox with his splitter has been dominant. How much does it mean to you to have a pitch like your curveball where you could have absolute confidence?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Yeah, like I said earlier, it’s been a pitch throughout my career, when my back’s against the wall, and nothing else is working, I can always believe in that pitch. That’s probably why it does work because I have such great belief in it, as Koji has in his splitter and his fastball. It’s impressive to watch him close these games out. It’s 1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out, like in cartoons. It’s crazy to see. We’re going to do our very best to not let him pitch at the end of games.

Q. I wanted to ask you, you talked about Chris talking to you about being the person they rely on every fifth day. How do you balance these competing forces right now of excitement of being in the World Series, maybe the, I don’t know if the word “pressure” but the expectations, you being their starter, their ace. And also just trying to make it like a regular game, ordinary game?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Well, I don’t want to make it like an ordinary game. I want this to mean even more than regular games. What I found throughout my playoff career so far is that I respond really well when the adrenaline really kicks in. I love that. The crowd gets louder. I get more fired up. That’s something that I just ‑‑ I can’t tell you how cool it is to pitch in front of great crowds like we’re going to have tomorrow here in Boston, and we’re going to have in St. Louis with that crisp, cool air, that Octobery kind of air, where you know it’s playoff baseball.
This is my favorite time of year, for many reasons. There’s NFL football on TV, there’s college football on TV, there’s hunting season, there’s playoff baseball. It does not get much better than that.

Q. You described the Cardinal way, the Cliff Notes of them. Part of that is adding to the culture. I wonder from your point of view, what Matheny has added to the notion of the Cardinal way and the expectations of winning you were talking about. What his personality and experience as a player brought to that?

ADAM WAINWRIGHT: I think, in my opinion, one of the most professional men I’ve ever met. So I think he’s the perfect torchbearer for that Cardinal way going forward. Talking about a man who will show up to your fundraiser in the offseason with a three‑piece suit with his hair slicked back, looking nice all the time, just to represent the Cardinals in the right way he feels. The perfect torchbearer, a great leader, a great motivator of men, and a guy who’s learned from the best, in my opinion in Tony LaRussa and Red Schoendienst over the years.

He’s been around, he’s been around other winning organizations in San Francisco and other places like that. So he’s got a great résumé. But he also is a great man to go along with it. (Mike Matheny enters the room.) And I think he’s the greatest person ever (laughter).