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The return of the (more) Bueno WainoPosted Wednesday, May 2, 2012, at 3:02 PM
He wasn't perfect Tuesday night. He might not have even been great. But for the first time in a long time, Waino was bueno.
When he took the mound for the first time since his Tommy John surgery on May 7, Wainwright struggled, but wasn't terrible. He was what should be expected from a returning pitcher. In 5.2 innings he gave up four hits and 3 earned runs, but pulled six strikeouts from the Brewers. It certainly could have been worse.
When he took the mound on April 13 for the Cardinals home-opener vs. the Cubs, it was worse. Much worse. In what may well have been his career worst outing, in only three innings he gave up eight runs on just seven hits giving up two homeruns and a pair of walks. He managed three strikeouts, but not enough to stop the damage. The team tried to back him with some offense, but not enough to get the job done. They eventually lost the game 9-5.
On April 19 against Cincinnati, Waino took another shelling. He gave up four runs on seven hits in only five innings with another pair of homeruns.
That's when things have started to look up for the Cardinals fan favorites.
The next time he faced the Cubs, on April 24 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, he managed his first quality start in 2012. He gave up no homeruns (a key quality in Waino-ness). He gave up only one run (another important trait). He also pulled out seven strikeouts on only six hits. He should have gotten his first win, but Samardzija stifled the Cardinals offense. They pulled out a pair of 8th inning runs to tie the game, but lost in the tenth. Despite the loss, seeing Waino throw well was enough to give Cardinals fans something to smile about.
Tuesday night when Wainwright took to the mound, he handled himself differently. He had better control of his pitches. The nasty curveball the Carlos Beltran remembers so well even showed up a few times. For the first time in 2012 he went a full seven innings giving up only five hits. He did give up four runs on a handful of pitches left up in the strike zone, but in general it was a good night for Wainwright.
The long ball is still his nemesis, however.
In 2012, he has surrendered a total of seven homeruns in his first five starts. In 2010, the year before his surgery, he only gave up 15 all season.
As his control comes back, the homeruns will taper off and the strikeouts will continue to return.
The only thing that gets a player past Tommy John surgery is time. He'll be back to form soon, but in the meantime, he's definitely moving in the right direction.
Like I said, he wasn't great on Tuesday night, but on the night Wainwright picked up his first W of 2012, he was definitely (more) bueno.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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