A full day before Adam Wainwright found out he would be an All-Star, the Cardinals’ ace already knew it was possible he wouldn’t pitch in the All-Star Game.
The Cardinals will send a league-high five players to the All-Star Game in New York on July 16, including leading NL vote-getter Yadier Molina and outfielder Carlos Beltran as starters. On Saturday, the same day Major League Baseball unveiled the All-Star Game rosters, the Cardinals confirmed a change in their pitching rotation made Friday. Wainwright will make two starts before the break, on Tuesday and next Sunday.
By pitching on the eve of the break Wainwright, by rule, can be selected as an All-Star and if he chooses be replaced before the game.
“First thought is it’s cool to pitch in the game, but I think what’s more important is what’s going on inside this clubhouse and can I help the team in that capacity?” Wainwright said.
“I think I can. Our staff is trusting me to do that as well as I can. Would I rather have two starts and try to help this team win two more games or pitch the seventh inning (of the All-Star Game)? I’m taking the two starts every time.”
The Cardinals had two first-time All-Stars, second baseman Matt Carpenter and cleanup hitter Allen Craig, chosen for the 84th All-Star Game, which will be held at Citi Field in Queens.
Molina edged Beltran for the NL lead in votes, 6,883,258 to 6,786,919.
The player vote pushed Carpenter onto the roster as he finished second to Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips, 409 to 343. Craig was handpicked by Giants manager Bruce Bochy for the roster. Wainwright’s selection is the second of his career. He received the fourth-most votes of any NL starter, behind Mets righty Matt Harvey, Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw and Arizona standout Patrick Corbin. Closer Edward Mujica, who is 22 for 23 on save opportunities this season, was not selected for the team or the final fan vote, but could be a replacement based on injury or available pitchers.
Carpenter and Craig had similar feelings headed into Saturday, the first day in their careers that they could end as All-Stars.
“I’d be lying to say I wasn’t thinking about it,” Carpenter said.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it,” Craig said.
An All-Star nod completes an ascension by way of reinvention for Carpenter. A year, ago the lefthanded-hitting Carpenter was a utility fielder who played the corners. This winter he accepted the team’s assignment to learn how to play second base. He emerged from spring training as the opening day starter at the position, and the new titles just kept coming. By April, he was an everyday player. By May, he was the team’s leadoff hitter. He’ll end July as an All-Star to go with league-leading numbers at his position, including a .319 average and 65 runs scored.
“It’s crazy,” Carpenter said. “I was just trying to get on the field at first. Halfway through as we were going, I’m thinking, ‘How can I figure out how to manage this position somehow to stay out there?’ I’ve come a long way. A lot of hard work. A lot of hours out there. It’s crazy the last couple months to have all of this opportunity to be in there.”
Craig, who signed a $31 million extension in spring to serve as the Cardinals’ cleanup hitter for years to come, is second in the NL in RBIs, at 68. He did not rank in the top two at first base in the player vote, though his versatility as an outfielder and first baseman made him an attractive addition to Bochy’s bench.
“My flexibility has helped me my entire career,” Craig said. “Being able to be in a situation where I normally wouldn’t have if I played one position. … With a pretty good first half I put myself in the running. I was in the conversation. But I didn’t get my hopes up.”
The Cardinals’ five selections were second in the majors to Detroit and the reigning American League champs’ six picks. St. Louis-area native and Mizzou alum Max Scherzer, who is 13-0, was selected as the headliner for the AL pitching staff, and he’s expected to get the starting nod for the AL. Harvey is the favorite to start the game for the NL in his home ballpark. Wainwright would have been a candidate had the Cardinals not modified their rotation to get him one extra start before the break and save rookie Shelby Miller some innings.
Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and manager Mike Matheny approached Wainwright with the idea to get his blessing before pitching him Sunday and complicating his All-Star Game. Matheny also spoke to Bochy about the plan as they received Wainwright’s approval.
“Before we finalized we made some plans for what would be best for him and for our club, and let him have a say,” Matheny said. “Realizing the All-Star Game is a unique and exciting opportunity and he was very quick to prioritize that he would rather have two starts.”
But he might get that and his All-Star appearance, too.
While baseball has prohibited starters in Sunday games from appearing in the All-Star Game for several years, a new rule gives Wainwright the choice. He can take the honor but asked to be replaced on the roster. Or, he can make himself available for the game and pitch no more than one inning. A section of the new collective bargaining agreement gives him that right.
“Yes, I would love to pitch if they need me,” Wainwright wrote in a text message after being told of the rule. “If not, that’s great, too.”
Wainwright said he will attend the All-Star festivities in New York either way. Molina’s availability will be clearer after the cause and extent of soreness in his right knee is determined Sunday. Beltran, who is headed back to his former home at Citi Field, has been mentioned as a Home Run Derby candidate, but he said he’s been playing through right oblique tightness and may not participate.
Craig said he planned to spend the All-Star break in St. Louis, unwinding with the family for a few days. Carpenter bought plane tickets to Fort Worth, Texas, less than a month ago so that he and his wife could spend the break back near home.
They had plans to go house-hunting.
“I have to call my Realtor,” Carpenter said, “and say we’re not going to make it.”