Wainwright ahead of schedule with rehab

ST. LOUIS – Adam Wainwright doesn’t figure to tease new teammate Carlos Beltran any time soon about the curveball he looked at for strike three that sent the Cardinals to the World Series in 2006 over Beltran’s Mets.
 
“I may let him bring that up first,” Wainwright joked. “I’m sure later on down the road when we get real comfortable with each other, I might just drop in something in there.”
 
Wainwright appeared in great spirits Saturday at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up charity event in St. Louis, signing autographs for fans for hours before speaking with the media about his continued rehab from Tommy John surgery.
 
The All-Star right-hander has been throwing at the Cardinals’ spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., for the past few weeks and said he plans to enter spring training in February with the mindset of it being any normal spring.
 
“My arm is feeling great,” Wainwright said. “My arm is feeling really good. I had a side session on Thursday and it went great and I’ll continue to throw until spring training.
 
“I’m actually kind of worried that I’m too far along as opposed to the other way around.”
 
Wainwright felt a twinge in his elbow while throwing a pitch early last spring. A few days later, he was undergoing Tommy John surgery in St. Louis and his season was over without ever actually throwing a pitch.
 
The right-hander was coming off the best season of his career in 2010, posting his first 20-win season and a 2.42 ERA – his lowest in four seasons as a starter. During a two-year stretch from 2009-2010, he won 39 games, posted a 2.53 ERA and pitched 463 innings.
 
Wainwright completed his prescribed rehab throwing sessions during the World Series and took two months off before beginning his normal offseason throwing program about three weeks ahead of schedule. He threw a bullpen session off a mound to a catcher on Thursday in Jupiter.
 
Despite missing the duration of last season, Wainwright expects to enter 2012 as if he had pitched a normal workload the season before.
 
“It will be a normal spring training,” Wainwright said. “I take this real seriously. I have an important job on this team I feel like and I can make an impact so I’m doing everything I can to be ready.”
 
Asked about reasonable expectations for the right-hander during a media session about an hour before Wainwright spoke, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak targeted 150-180 innings.
 
The ultra-competitive Wainwright doesn’t agree.
 
“One hundred fifty innings sounds like half a season to me,” Wainwright said. “That’s five innings for 30 starts. If I’m making all my starts, I just don’t see how that would be possible, but he is the boss so at the end of the day, you defer to him, but any pitcher that is out there competing their tail off and is decent at what they do should throw more than 150 innings I feel like.”
 
After pitching the Cardinals to a World Series victory on three days rest in Game 7, veteran Chris Carpenter likely has the honors to start Opening Day.
 
“I’ll be ready for game two,” Wainwright said.
 
And after not pitching in a big league game in nearly 18 months, waiting an extra game will surely be fine with him.