WASHINGTON • Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright has informed the club that he prefers to wait until completion of this season and any postseason play before negotiating over a contract extension.
In the first installment of a two-year, $21 million club option, Wainwright confirmed Thursday that general manager John Mozeliak contacted him in the past two weeks about the matter. Reluctant to do anything that might distract from his or the club's momentum, Wainwright thought it wise to keep his distance from talks.
"I don't want to do anything to create a distraction for me or the team," he said before the Cardinals' series opener against the Washington Nationals. "My feeling is it can wait until after the season plays out."
Wainwright, who turned 31 on Thursday, endured a difficult first half after missing last season because of an elbow ligament replacement. He has more closely resembled his pre-surgery form since the All-Star break and won his last five decisions to improve to 13-10 with a 3.63 ERA.
Wainwright also ranks second on the staff to Kyle Lohse with 166 innings.
Runner-up in balloting for the NL Cy Young Award in 2010, Wainwright readily admits he looked at a contract extension with greater urgency earlier in his career. Wainwright signed a team-friendly extension that included a two-year, $21 million club option before the 2008 season. Unless the final year is included in upcoming negotiations, the deal will end up at $35.9 million over six years. The contract also allowed the Cardinals to bypass arbitration in addition to postponing Wainwright's free agency two years.
"Earlier in my career I looked at things a lot differently," said Wainwright. "I'm in a different place now professionally and spiritually today. In '08, it was a major distraction. I couldn't think about anything else. I don't worry about those things anymore. I feel perfectly fine the way things are."
Wainwright also recognizes his leverage will only increase should he finish this season on a high note. Having unsuccessfully engaged Albert Pujols in talks before his walk season, the Cardinals would prefer not to allow Wainwright to be tempted by free agency after the 2013 season.
Wainwright struggled to a 7-8 record, 4.56 ERA and 1.354 walks-plus-hits-per-inning ratio (WHIP) before the All-Star break. He is 6-2 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.900 WHIP since.
"I had a horrible first half," Wainwright said. "I know my side of it will get better as it goes. For their side, there might be more reason to come early. I get it."
MOLINA RETURNS TO LINEUP
Catcher Yadier Molina returned to the lineup Thursday after passing a series of tests administered by the team's training staff.
Leveled by Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison on Tuesday night, Molina missed Wednesday's series finale with upper back and neck stiffness. He said only minor neck stiffness remained Thursday. Molina also passed baseline tests that confirmed he did not suffer a concussion in the collision. (Molina said he has suffered two previous concussions in his career.)
"The way I feel, I'm going to be playing my game," Molina said before the game.
Manager Mike Matheny declined Molina's lobbying effort to play Wednesday. Matheny's career was cut short by a concussion suffered while playing with the San Francisco Giants.
Matheny insisted he was "going to be more cautious about this because I know more about this than any one person should know."
Matheny hinted that at least "a couple" of pitchers and 'several position players" would be added to the major-league club after rosters are allowed to expand Saturday. Class AAA Memphis' season ends Monday, and the club has not offered any timetable whether the promotions will occur en masse or in stages. ... First baseman Lance Berkman ended a rehab assignment with Memphis on Thursday and is expected to join the team today in Washington before being activated from the disabled list Saturday. ... Left fielder Matt Holliday gained his 1,500th career hit.