DENVER -- Mike Matheny knows the younger members of the Cardinals pitching staff keep a close eye on Adam Wainwright, trying their best to emulate the ace's every move.
The Cardinals' manager wants his young hurlers to pay attention to nearly everything Wainwright did en route to his 17th win Wednesday night, aside from one thing: the fairly major in-game adjustments he made. Wainwright gave up two early runs, but was stellar after the first, allowing just one additional run and lasting 7 2/3 innings. He credited that improvement to changing his grip and arm slot to better suit the thin air of Coors Field.
It's something only a veteran, elite-level pitcher can pull off and could spell disaster for someone like Thursday's starter, rookie Michael Wacha.
"That's the last thing in the world you'd want to try and tell a young guy to do," Matheny said. "You're just flirting with really negative repercussions for that. So, I hope the guys weren't listening to that stuff. I want them to listen to 99.9 percent of everything else he says."
Matheny said it's not uncommon for Wainwright to tinker with his game during starts, adding another layer of difficulty for opposing batters.
"Not that he needs to go to trickery, but he's a survivor out there," Matheny said. "When he doesn't have his best stuff, he finds a way to survive until he finds his best stuff. Very rare."
Pitching can be a special kind of art form at Coors Field, as many pitchers say the elevation causes the ball to break differently than it does at any other park. Matheny, a Major League catcher for 13 years, played 32 games at Coors Field and saw firsthand how it can affect pitching strategy.
"I probably paid more attention to the bullpen [before the game] here than anywhere else," Wainwright said. "A lot of times you go out … you had some of your worst stuff in the pen, you come out to the mound and it was drastically different. But typically the ball will tell you what each pitch is going to do once you got to the mound.
"So, had to kind of rework the game plan to figure out what our secondary pitches were going to be and what the game plan was going to be with a flat breaking ball."
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.