PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Overcoming some early inefficiency, Adam Wainwright wrapped up his final Grapefruit League outing -- a six-inning test against the Mets -- by pushing his pitch count to 97. It was, Wainwright said afterward, exactly where he wanted to be as he sits six days away from pitching the Cardinals' season opener in Arizona.
St. Louis' ace needed 58 of those pitches to get through the first three innings, but then closed his performance by throwing 31 of the final 39 pitches for strikes. The Mets, who scored a run of Wainwright in the first and third, didn't push another run home in those final three frames.
"I really wanted to get into the 90s today," Wainwright said after his sixth spring start. "That was important to me. [Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist] asked me if I wanted to be done after 85 and I said, 'No, I need one more [inning].' I want to be comfortable going into that 100-pitch count range that first day. I think now I definitely will be."
Wainwright wraps up his spring having allowed 16 hits and five earned runs in his last four Grapefruit League outings (21 1/3 innings). According to the radar gun at Tradition Field, Wainwright's fastball velocity sat mostly in the upper 80s on Tuesday. Neither he, nor manager Mike Matheny, expressed concern about that number, even though it's lower than what he desires to hit during the regular season.
"I think there were times that I threw the ball harder than it said, but I'm really not all that worried about it," Wainwright said. "I think in '08, '09 and '10 and definitely in '11, I did not throw a ball over 88 [mph] in Spring Training. Wherever I'm at now is more than that."
On a day when his fastball command wasn't at its best, Wainwright used his curveball effectively. His changeup has also gotten crisper as the spring has progressed, and it's a pitch Wainwright intends to use with more frequency.
"I thought he did a great job," Matheny said. "We got him into the upper-90s in his count. I thought he pitched out of trouble, which he does as well as anybody we have. I thought he did a nice job overall."
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.