Wainwright - The Right Move? Part II

The Cardinals are using one of their top starting pitching prospects in the bullpen this season. Is this the right move?

Ray Mileur "Takes Five" with St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, and the conversation turns to Adam Wainwright.

RM: In reference to Adam Wainwright, he pitched 180 innings last season and I would guess you would project him to pitch between 60 and 70 innings this season. Then he will be required to go back to pitching 180 innings-plus in 2007 if he makes the rotation next season out of spring training. Does he present to you unique challenges in that he is projected as a future starter for the organization?

DD: Well, he's proven he can pitch 180 innings. I think that the experience he is getting now far outweighs any benefits he would be get starting at Triple A.

RM: I agree.

DD: What he is doing right now is proving to himself that he can pitch in the major leagues and get major league hitters out. I think that is an important thing to recognize as you are establishing yourself as a major league pitcher.

There are two scenarios. He could continue this year pitching out of the bullpen for the entire year and go into next season projected as a starter on our pitching staff. I think that he would do that with a lot of confidence.

Somebody could get hurt in our rotation now and we might choose to put him into the rotation at some point in time, during this season, and whatever experience he has gained prior to that taking place I think would mentally benefit him, if that should happen.

RM: In spring training I talked with Adam when he was coming in out of the bullpen. He told me that he was coming into the games thinking of himself as if he was starting. How much difference is the preparation for someone coming in as a starter compared to a member of the bullpen, or is there that much difference?

DD: Yeah, there is a difference. I don't know that there is a tremendous amount of difference in the warming-up process. I think the mental process is where there is a difference, because as a reliever you are really only concerned about the very first hitter that you face.

It is really a good exercise for a pitcher to go through this that is going to be a starter, because he recognizes the importance of each individual hitter that he faces. You recognize that as a reliever. As a starter sometimes you think, "I can make a mistake and I have time to overcome that mistake."

As a reliever you really focus on each and every hitter that you face and that should be the mentality of a starter as well, but it's just a hard thing for a starter to establish that type of mentality.

RM: Does Adam's strength and conditioning program have to be different from the other members of the bullpen because he's projected to be a starter next season?

DD: No, no, not really. I don't think so. He can't be thinking about what he is going to do next year. He has to do all the things he has to do to prepare to fulfill the role he is in right now.

RM: I have heard and read somewhere in the past that when a pitcher is called on to pitch more than 50 innings more than he did the previous season that that increases his risk of injury. Do you put any substance into that number or is it an old wives' tale?

DD: No, I wouldn't put much stock in that number.

RM: Then Wainwright going from starter to reliever to starter doesn't present any unique challenges to you and Adam?

DD: No.

RM: OK, Coach, thanks for your time... I appreciate it.

DD: You are welcome.



COMING TUESDAY: Ray Mileur "Takes Five" with Adam Wainwright about his future as a member of the bullpen this season and potentially as a starter for next season.

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