JUPITER, Fla. -- It's long been assumed that the assignment belonged to Adam Wainwright, but on Friday, manager Mike Matheny finally made the news official: Wainwright will start the team's season opener on April 1.
The Opening Day start will be the third of Wainwright's career, though only one of the previous two actually went in the books. He started the team's opener in 2008, but none of the statistics count because the game was rained out before it became official. A year later, Wainwright earned a no-decision in the Cardinals' season-opening loss to Pittsburgh.
"It's a huge honor," Wainwright said. "An Opening Day starter for a big league ballclub and a world championship team in the St. Louis Cardinals, I think it's a tremendous honor. It's not something I take lightly. I'll be very motivated, very excited to make that start."
Matheny had informed Wainwright before camp opened that the right-hander would get the Opening Day nod but waited until the day of Wainwright's fourth spring start to make the news public.
"That's something that he certainly deserves," Matheny said. "He's the leader on our pitching staff."
Assuming the Cardinals maintain the rotation order they've been using throughout spring, Wainwright will be followed, in order, by Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook and either Joe Kelly or Shelby Miller. That would line Garcia up to start the home opener, unless the Cardinals use a scheduled off day to skip the fifth spot in the rotation during that first week.
Wainwright will make two more Grapefruit League starts before the regular season, and he seems to have little left to accomplish. The righty allowed one run on three hits and threw what the Cardinals estimated as 60 pitches in six innings on Friday. Over his last 10 2/3 innings, Wainwright has been scored upon only once.
That dominant stretch follows changes he made to lengthen his stride during the delivery.
"It's made a huge deal," Wainwright said. "It gives my pitches more life. I found that happy zone where I'm not extended too far and my ball flattens out, but I'm a little bit closer to the plate now and I'm able to get on top of the ball. I'm getting better downhill plane. There's a little bit more life involved. It's really been an adjustment that has helped in all aspects."
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.