Wainwright pitches well — but not well enough to bat third all season

Adam Wainwright is skilled with the lumber, but it's probably a good thing he won't be picking his spot in the batting order.

Steve Mitchell/Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

JUPITER, Fla. — You couldn’t tell St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright had been dealing with a bout of strep throat from the way he pitched in his second spring start on Tuesday afternoon.

He breezed through a seven-pitch first inning and, except for a home run to Josh Satin leading off the second, encountered no problems in a 52-pitch, 3 1/3-innings outing against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.

Before the game, Matheny said he was looking for Wainwright to make only about 40 pitches. Aware that the team had been running up high pitch counts the past two days, Wainwright told his manager that he would go seven innings even on such a stingy allotment.

And if he did?

"You can hit anywhere in the order all year," Wainwright said he was told by skipper Mike Matheny. "After the first seven pitches, I’m like, ‘All right, I can do this.’"

When Satin homered, Wainwright thought, "Well, I’ll let (Matheny) off the hook."

And where would he have hit? "Third," Wainwright said.

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Even after the especially economic first inning, Matheny said he wasn’t worried.

On the mound, Wainwright threw only a few curves, which didn’t work too well. He gave up the homer on a curve, and ball four on the last batter he faced (Satin again) was a curve that bounced in front of the plate.

"I’ve got plenty of time to incorporate the breaking ball and start throwing for strikes," Wainwright said of the pitch that has helped make him one of the game’s top starters.

The tall right-hander is scheduled for three more starts — all in Jupiter — before his Opening Day assignment in Cincinnati on March 31.

Wainwright said he felt fine against the Mets even though his work had been limited since his first start last Friday. He had to head home early one day because of illness.

"He apologized to me one day for going home with a fever," Matheny said. "I said that makes no sense to me. He goes, ‘I just couldn’t think of leaving this field because you’d be disappointed.’

"Give me a break. I love the way he thinks. That’s how all these guys are, the responsibility they have to each other, to all of us. Makes it a fun place to be."

Almost as fun as on most days when Wainwright pitches.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.