Saturday, April 07, 2007

Man of the Minute: Adam Wainwright

In keeping with the tradition of bringing you the inside scoop, and hard-hitting fictitious journalism on all your (my) favorite players and incidents, Sparks of Dementia finally managed to catch up with last night's hero for the Cardinals, closer-turned-starter Adam Wainwright, whose pitching and hitting led the Redbirds to their first win of '07. (They flopped again today, but that's another matter). Here's what Adam had to say to that effect... enjoy.

(That's Adam kissing the box containing his World Series ring, which he richly earned. You're welcome).

SD: Well, first off, congratulations for a lot of things, Adam. Congrats on having a stellar rookie campaign, the birth of your daughter, winning the World Series, making the conversion flawlessly from rock-solid bullpen brat to potential ace-in-training, and for having a sterling debut on both sides of the ball.
AW: Thanks. It's been an exciting few years.
SD: Your strikeout of Carlos Beltran in NLCS Game 7 is now going to be an ingrained part of postseason lore. What can you say about that?
AW: Well, I've talked a lot about it already, and you know, I don't want to disrespect Beltran or the Mets by going over it again. He's a great ballplayer, that's a really strong club over there in Queens -- guess we should know, the way they just hacked through us [laughs] -- and that's from 2006 and I'm trying to keep my focus on 2007 now. Still, though, it was pretty much perfect. It was a little leaguer's dream to be standing out there in that situation and come through. I just trusted Yadi [catcher Yadier Molina] threw the hook, and it worked out well for us. I'd be singing a different tune now if it hadn't. [laughs] But championships don't carry over from season to season and my focus now is only on returning the trophy to St. Louis in '07.
SD: Very well, let's talk about 2007. Do you anticipate preparing for your game differently now that you know you're going to be run out there every fifth day on a schedule instead of being called upon as situations demand?
AW: No, not really. I go about my game the same way. I've just got to keep my head in there, focus on what I'm doing, not get too caught up in the peripherals, and make my pitches. It's definitely different now that I know when I'm going to be pitching instead of being used out of the bullpen, but I like that stability. I was a starter in Memphis [the Cardinals' AAA affiliate] and I've always been used as one, but clearly last year there was no chance of me cracking the rotation -- coming into camp, I didn't even think I was going to make the team -- so I'm just happy that I got to experience it from the bullpen. But now, you know, situations have changed, guys have left, and I have my chance, so I just want to take it and run with it. I'm confident in my ability, I don't have any fear -- there's no room for it at this level -- and I'm looking forward to getting out there every fifth day and giving my team a chance to win.
SD: How important was it for you guys to capture this first win coming off a tough season-opening sweep?
AW: Very. Oh, definitely, it was big. We played like crap against the Mets and we know that we're better than that. We're hitting the ball hard, but you know that everyone wants to elevate their game and nobody wants to start off 0-10 or something. So I just came out and thankfully I kept them off-balance, my teammates really helped me out and we picked up that win. I hope we'll be seeing that a lot this year. [smiles]
SD: For a pitcher, you sure seem to be a terrific hitter. You homered last year on the first pitch you saw in your first major-league at-bat, you ripped a two-run double in the Civil Rights Game, and last night you helped yourself out again.
AW: That's just the way it is... not sure why, but I've always been pretty decent with swinging the bat. It just happens, I guess. [shrugs]
SD: Which pitcher on the team influences you the most?
AW: I would definitely say either Carp [Chris Carpenter] or Izzy [Jason Isringhausen]. Those guys have been around a long time, they're veterans, they've had a lot of success at the big-league level, and I really like just watching them do their thing. Last year Izzy was sort of the mentor for all the bullpen guys and there's a lot you can learn from observing him, noting what he does, just trying to emulate him. I think he was more happy than I was for all that postseason stuff I did, and that's saying a lot. [smiles] As for Carp, he's amazing, he's our ace, he's possibly the top righty starter in the league. He knows what to do out there, he has a great feel for a game situation and mixing up his pitches, and he's so professional. He just goes out there and does his job game after game, really gives us the best chance to win. He's a special guy, a special teammate, great pitcher, good friend. All the young guys on the team want to be like him, to just reach that consistent level of quality.
SD: Tell Chris to come back healthy soon and get out there and win for us.
AW: Will do. [smiles]
SD: Who's going to win the NL Cy Young?
AW: Me, of course. [laughs] In all seriousness, I don't know. It was kind of a two-horse race between Carp and Webb last year and Webb won. He had a good year, he deserved it. But this year there's a lot of candidates who are really talented and I don't want to insult anyone by naming names, so I guess that's a mystery.
SD: When you reach your free-agency years, is there any hope that the Cards can keep you from going to the Braves?
AW: Aw, man, you had to ask that, didn't you? [smiles] You know, I was born in Georgia, I grew up there, I live there in the offseason, and me and my brother had this whole elaborate plan to get me drafted by the Braves. It even worked, but then of course, I got traded. [laughs] I won't deny that it would be really special for me to play there, they're such a successful franchise and I've loved them for as long as I can remember. All my family lives in Georgia, my brother's in Atlanta, and I know it would be really meaningful for them too, but right now I'm part of something special in St. Louis. I've won a world championship here and this team has some great players -- Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, everyone, really, and I'm content to be here and to play for the Cards and hopefully see another Red October this fall.
SD: About tonight... the Cards couldn't quite build momentum, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Astros and Roy Oswalt. Do you guys think you can get the ship into gear?
AW: Absolutely. It's still extremely early -- we've only played, what, five games? There are still 157 to go, and anything can happen between now and September. We're not going to score a total of six runs all year. [laughs] We've gotten off the schneid and we're going to play better. But tonight, well, we ran into a guy who's going to win a Cy Young eventually, you just have to tip your cap and say that the better man won. But we're going to come out tomorrow and try to get something going before we head into Pittsburgh. We can't rest on our laurels anymore -- the banner's been raised, we have our rings, and now it's open season and we've got to execute as a team. And we are a team, we're going to win or lose together, and I'm excited to see where we go.
SD: Me too. But... well... it would help if you could score runs.
AW: [laughs] I know. But the big guys -- Albert, Jimmy, Scottie, Eck, everyone's going to get into gear and then we'll score more, I promise. [laughs]
SD: A final question...
AW: Sure.
SD: ...... Can I.... Can I have a hug?
AW: [laughs] No problem.
SD: [completely forgets witty closing remark because in addition to a hug, Adam gave her a kiss on the cheek]

1 comment:

Athena said...

My dear, you are just so cute I can't stand it. :)