Wainwright faced hitters on Tuesday for the first time since he sustained a sprained middle finger on his right (pitching) hand. He threw about 35 pitches over two simulated "innings" to teammates Nick Stavinoha and Rick Ankiel, and he wasn't especially thrilled with how he threw the ball. Still, he said his next outing will be the start of a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.
"I was battling mechanically," Wainwright said. "First time facing hitters, I was flying open really bad. So I've got some work to do mechanically. But those are things you can knock out usually pretty fast. My arm felt good, and my finger felt great."
It is expected that Wainwright will pitch on Saturday for Triple-A Memphis, which will play at home against New Orleans. He will not throw a bullpen session between Tuesday and Saturday, but he will do extensive flat-ground work to refine his delivery. He was mostly pleased the majority of his offerings on Tuesday, but frustrated with his slider.
"That's a product of flying open and not allowing your body to be in the right position to throw the ball," he said. "At times, I was like that, but there were other times where I was good. The consistency just comes with pitching. With the exception of my slider, I was decently happy with it. I don't think I was very sharp, by any means. But I would have gotten some outs today."
Wainwright missed the strike zone on about half of his offerings in the first "inning," but his control was sharper in the second. He allowed a good bit of hard contact, including a rocket shot of a home run to right-center by Ankiel.
"You don't expect him to walk out there and be in midseason form," said manager Tony La Russa. "He's got to get a feel for his delivery and everything. But [the most important thing] is his health and that looked good. I'm encouraged that he's healthy. That's a good start."
It's still unclear how many rehab starts Wainwright will need, but he was confident about the near future even as he was frustrated with the immediate present.
"The things that you lose when you're not out there every day are the life on your ball and the consistency of your mechanics," he said. "My finger was great. I didn't have a second thought about it. ... I feel like I'm one or two throws away from being right where I need to be."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.