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Updated: March 9th, 2012 2:12pm
In first start post-surgery, Adam Wainwright makes quick work of Twins

In first start post-surgery, Adam Wainwright makes quick work of Twins

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Facing major league hitters in a game for the first time in 532 days, St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright looked to be in midseason, pre-surgery form against the Minnesota Twins on Friday.

Once one of the most dominant starters in the National League, Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery in late-2010, and he sat out the entire 2011 season -- including the World Series -- while rehabbing his elbow.

Wainwright, who remains good friends with former teammate and Friday's mound opponent, Jason Marquis, worked quickly on Friday and made quick work of a Twins lineup that hadn't scored a run in 24 innings heading into the game -- two innings, no runs, no hits, one walk and two strikeouts, including freezing Joe Mauer on a cutter.

"I haven't accomplished anything yet, but there's a sense that my rehab process is coming to an end, and I'm a normal pitcher again," Wainwright said. "My last warm-up pitch was like 84 mph. I noticed that. I turned around just to see. I kind of put a little pop on and I was like, '84, it's going to be a tough year, maybe.' My first fastball was at like 91 I think. I turned around, 91, and I was like, 'OK, I can work with that.'"

The right-hander received a loud ovation from the large flock of Cardinals fans that showed up to the ballpark. And when he toed the rubber, Wainwright took only :12-:16 seconds between pitches from the windup -- a Mark Buehrle-like pace -- and his fastball consistently clocked between 91-93 on the Hammond Stadium radar gun.

"To be honest with you, I've never taken that kind of stuff to a mound in spring training before," said Wainwright, whose fastball averaged 91 mph in 2010 prior to surgery. "It's usually during the season where I bring stuff like that. I was happy with the way it was coming out. ...

"It feels like there's a little more pop in there right now at this stage of the game."

Since being converted from reliever to starter after the Cardinals' World Series title run in 2006, Wainwright owns a 2.93 ERA with 652 strikeouts and only 218 unintentional awlks in 797 1/3 innings. He finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting in 2009 when he posted a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 233 innings.

Despite his absence, the Cardinals went on to win another World Series in 2011.

"It's more frustrating now, looking back, than it was going through that year -- realizing I missed a World Series-winning team, to be able to play," Wainwright said. "I mean, I was there, I was a part of it. But to play in it. ... I like to consider myself a competitor, so I want to be there more now than then."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Jason Marquis, Joe Mauer
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