Wainwright is slated to return to the mound on Saturday, when he will face the Brewers in his first regular-season start since he became a 20-game winner on Sept. 24, 2010. He missed the entire 2011 season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
With no more Grapefruit League games on the schedule and no desire to have Wainwright fly to and from Springfield, Mo., for Monday night's exhibition game, the Cardinals improvised by recruiting some Minor League hitters to step into the batter's box and face Wainwright in a live batting-practice session.
The session was focused, though, with Wainwright simulating counts and situations with runners on base. He pitched five "innings," in each of which he threw 15 pitches. There were no position players behind Wainwright in the field.
"It's probably a good tool to have right before you leave," Wainwright said of the structured outing. "You only go out there and focus on what you can do. You don't worry about where the fielders are or anything. It's just executing pitches, and that's the name of the game."
Opponents hit fly balls off Wainwright only twice, an excellent sign for the righty, who really wanted to focus on getting late movement on his pitches down in the strike zone. He also noted improved fluidity with his momentum and delivery from his last time out.
Wainwright explained after his Grapefruit League start on Wednesday -- one in which he allowed three earned runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings -- that he had been working on getting his arm and body more in sync so that his momentum would carry him toward home plate, not the left side of the mound, when he finished.
"I'm probably better for going through that last game because I was able to refocus on a couple adjustments and really work and learn my delivery," Wainwright said. "I think sometimes when it's going real well, you can get complacent and lose that focus on making each pitch individually one at a time -- and the importance of each pitch individually."
The 75 pitches Wainwright threw on Monday marked his spring high. As a result, the expectation is that Wainwright won't push to a pitch count of 100 immediately. The Cardinals have said that they will closely monitor Wainwright's workload this season because he is coming off surgery.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less