ST. LOUIS — In the wake of Saturday’s loss of the Wild Card Series, when emotions were still raw and tears were still streaming down the Cardinals clubhouse, veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright wasn’t quite ready to think about it yet. inevitable.
What will it be like to never throw catcher Yadier Molina again? There’s also this: Will Wainwright join the retirement of cardinal legends Albert Pujols and Molina and never throw one of his signature 12-6 curveballs again?
“Have I thought about it? Well, everyone asks me about it,” Wainwright said incredulously. “We’ll see what happens. We should know pretty soon if anything happens. If not, it’s been a good run and thanks, St. Louis.”
Wainwright, 41, could be forgiven for not being quite willing to consider such a monumental decision, as he assumed the Cardinals had plenty of time left in their season. After a year in which he and Molina set the NL/AL record for career starts by battery, Pujols made an exciting rise to and through 700 home runs and the Cardinals won the NL Central for the first time in three years, Wainwright fully realized St. Louis. had a magical playoff run in store.
That would have happened if they hadn’t completely melted down in a collapse of a 6-3 loss for the Phillies in the ninth inning in Friday’s Game 1. And when Aaron Nola completely silenced the Cardinals’ bats in a 2-0 on Saturday, Louis was swept out of the playoffs and the careers of Pujols and Molina were unexpectedly abruptly ended.
Wainwright, who has not yet revealed whether he plans to return in 2023, admitted he was completely taken aback by the season ending with a whimper rather than another magical moment. Returning in 2022 was easy after going 17-7 the previous season with a 3.05 ERA; however, this scenario makes for a much more difficult decision.
“There was so much magic going on this season with Albert and Yadi, and I just thought, ‘We can’t go out like this,'” said Wainwright, who spent the early stages of Game 2 in the bullpen and said he’s ready to play in Game 3. to throw if the series had gone this far. “It was just too special, what we had going on. With our two guys here and what they brought to the table, I always thought we were going to win it.”
Throughout his 18-year career, Wainwright has been used to winning 195 wins, four top-5 places in NL Cy Young Award voting and a World Series ring as closer in 2006. He was injured during the 2011 World Series of the Cardinals. championship season. Among active pitchers, Wainwright ranks first in complete games (28); fifth in wins (195), strikeouts (2147) and quality starts (242); and eighth in ERA (3.38).
Miles Mikolas, the unlucky loser in Saturday’s Game 2, said he’s already started lobbying Wainwright to return, emphasizing: “I’ve already told him, ‘I’ll see you in the spring.’ Hopefully it’s not as a coach because he’s a man who is as irreplaceable as Yadi and Albert You know when he comes back in his mind he will be 100% ready I hope that’s the choice he because I could use Waino for another year.”
Last season was a bit of an anomaly as the six-foot-tall Wainwright struggled so hard that he didn’t get a chance to pitch in the Wild Card Series against the advancing Phillies. That humiliation, he said, will play into his decision-making about whether he will somehow go beyond this season.
“Well, you never know,” Wainwright said when asked if he would be motivated by going 11-12 and being passed in the two playoff games. “I’ll tell you this: I don’t like not throwing a playoff series. So you can take that in two ways – you can see that as a good run or you can see it as motivation to never let that happen again.”
Wainwright spoke earlier in the season about how John Smoltz, one of his boys from his childhood growing up in Georgia, “never looked good” in a Cardinals uniform after the Hall of Fame pitcher had spent so much of his career with the Braves. He added that he would never see himself wearing another team’s uniform – and perhaps that’s why Wainwright was still in full uniform an hour after the final pitch of Saturday’s loss.
What Wainwright can’t even imagine is throwing to a catcher other than Molina, who ended his 19-year career with the Cardinals on Saturday with a hit in his last at bat. Already the winning starter battery in MLB history (213 wins), Wainwright and Molina teamed up to set an NL/AL record for endurance (328 starts) late in the season. Their 2,155 innings ranks first in Cardinals history and fourth in all time. Only 412 1/3 of Wainwright’s innings has ever been thrown to a catcher other than the outgoing Molina.
So will Wainwright continue without the player and close friend who has been his personal catcher for the past 18 seasons?
“If it happens, it will never be the same,” he said candidly. “But if not, I’ve had the best catcher I’ve ever caught all along.”