The Right Moves? A Look at Adam Wainwright
Adam Wainwright opened this season on the major league roster for the first time in his career. This is the first of a three-part series seeking the answer to the $64,000 question: Are the Cardinals making the right move by placing one of their top starting pitching prospects in the bullpen this season?
Adam Parrish Wainwright, the 6'-7", 24-year-old right-handed pitcher, is one of the Cardinals' top pitching prospects. After earning a taste of the big leagues last season (two innings), Adam is starting the season on a major league roster for the first time in his career. After coming to spring training as one of the dark-horse candidates for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, he pitched well enough to earn a spot in the bullpen.
Adam had a solid spring training, giving up just one earned run in 15.2 IP (0.57 ERA). He only made one start this spring, against the Baltimore Orioles on March 16th. In that game, he gave up two unearned runs over four innings pitched.
If the Cardinals hadn't signed free agent starting pitcher Sidney Ponson to a major league contract in December, it is very likely that Wainwright could have started this year in the rotation. So far this season he has not allowed a run in 6.2 innings pitched. He tossed three scoreless innings Thursday versus Milwaukee and pitched 1.2 innings last Sunday at Chicago, retiring five straight batters.
So far, so good for the young prospect.
Wainwright will forever be linked to one of the best trades ever made by Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty. Adam was acquired by along with pitchers Ray King and Jason Marquis in exchange for outfielders J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero back in December of 2003. Drew and Marrero are long gone from the Braves and Ray King was traded this past offseason for outfielder Larry Bigbie and infielder Aaron Miles.
So as a result of this trade, the Cardinals have Jason Marquis in the rotation, Aaron Miles at second base, Larry Bigbie in the outfield (as soon as he completes his rehab assignment), and Adam Wainwright in the bullpen for this season and probably in the starting rotation next year.
Talking to Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa on Saturday about Wainwright, he said, "His future is in the rotation."
This is the first installment of a three-part series looking at Adam Wainwright, how he is being used this season, and how that will affect his future as a member of the Cardinals rotation in 2007.
He has proven he can carry the workload of a starter by leading the Pacific Coast League in 2005 with 182.0 innings pitched. This season, as a member of the bullpen, I would suggest that Wainwright will likely pitch in the neighborhood of 60 innings, most likely all in relief.
Herein lies the question and the reason for this report: Is there a potential problem and a risk of injury to Wainwright, one of the Cardinals' top prospects, to have him go from 180+ innings one season to less than 80 innings this season and expecting him to come back in 2007 and be ready to carry the workload of a starter, going back to pitching 180+ innings again?
In search of an answer, St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan will give us his insights into these specific concerns. His take, coming Monday, may surprise you.
On Tuesday Adam himself shares with us what he is doing to get the job done this season and at the same time how he will be ready start in 2007.
It may come as some surprise to some of you that after talking with Adam and Duncan I'm not sure I agree with them on some of the aspects of their plans.
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