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In an Era of Throwers, Adam Wainwright Is a Pitcher

  • September 16, 2021

When Lester, 37, was with Boston in 2013, he beat Wainwright twice in the World Series, including a Game 5 duel that was 1-1 in the seventh inning, with both starters still in the game. Back then, Lester said, he threw hard enough to bury cutters inside and go away as a surprise. Now, as he approaches his 200th career victory, he has essentially reversed his game plan.

But while Wainwright has adjusted, too — in concert with his timeless battery mate, catcher Yadier Molina — he is coy with details.

Secrecy matters, Wainwright explained, citing a playoff game a few years ago. Wainwright said he read an article in which an opponent divulged a plan to take Wainwright’s curveball and let it break out of the strike zone. Wainwright dutifully flipped curve after curve into the zone to win the game.

Amateurs often prioritize velocity and spin rate to impress scouts and college recruiters, but to thrive in the long run, Wainwright said, they should master the basics.

“I’ll tell you where it starts: it starts with a game of catch,” he said. “I see so many pitchers now — throwers now — playing fetch instead of catch. A good game of catch is where learning how to pitch really starts.”

And how does Wainwright define a good game of catch?

“You should be able to throw the ball and hit me in the chest, or really close,” he said. “Let’s say I have a hula hoop-shaped target. You should be able to throw within that hula hoop out to a really good distance, and you should learn how to do that. That’s a skill, and it takes practice and it takes a plan. It takes intention. It’s not just throwing to throw.”

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