St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright

(Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Wainwright Explains His Decision Not to Retire in 2018

Wainwright admits he, his teammates and the training staff thought 2018 was going to be it – but then things changed.

January 09, 2019 - 8:30 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - About halfway through the 2018 season, Adam Wainwright says his sole intent was not to be the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals, but to be the best teammate on the bench he could be. He had two long-term stays on the disabled list and the last year of his contract with St. Louis started to look like the last year of his career.

At 37-year-old, even the non-stop Mr. Positive himself had thoughts of hanging up his glove for good. 

"I tried to stay positive and just be up beat and just trust that my work was going to work and I was going to be able to come back," Wainwright says. "But if I'm being honest, looking back on it, I fully intended to not be able to pitch at all at the end of that season and for that to be it.

"I didn't want it to be, but..."

Wainwright told our Chris Hrabe and Mike Claiborne on Wednesday's Cardinals Countdown to Opening Day show he even had a conversation with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak about his expected retirement

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"I told him at some point, 'If I come back healthy and can compete, I really want to play again next year,'" Wainwright says. "But if I don't and this is the way it's going to be then I'm walking away and I'm walking away satisfied, knowing I did everything I possibly could. And he said, 'Understood.'"

Before Wainwright began his rehab starts, in which he threw 22 innings of shutout baseball in starts against single-, double- and triple-A oppoents, there were few people who believed he was coming back in 2019. 

"Because man it just didn't look very good, it was just hard. It was real hard for me to go out there and compete," Wainwright says. 

But then he started throwing up zeros in the minors. The Cardinals won three of his final four starts of 2018. He threw at least five innings in each of his four September starts, striking out 25 and allowing 12 runs in 22.1 innings. 

As for 2019, he plans to go into spring training and win himself a spot in the Cardinals starting rotation. Which won't be easy when you look at the double-digit number of pitchers with Major League starting experience on St. Louis' 40-man roster. 

But if it wasn't for all that talent coming up and competing for not just his spot, but all over the depth chart, he may not have decided to sign a one-year deal with big performance incentives to return to St. Louis.

"If we didn't have these kinds of guys coming in, I would not have felt as good about coming back," Wainwright says. "At this point I want to win, that's what I want to do and when I look at our roster I see a championship-caliber team. I really do." 

You can listen to the full interview with Wainwright below: