DENVER -- Mike Matheny knows the younger members of the Cardinals pitching staff keep a close eye on Adam Wainwright, trying their best to emulate the ace's every move.
The Cardinals' manager wants his young hurlers to pay attention to nearly everything Wainwright did en route to his 17th win Wednesday night, aside from one thing: the fairly major in-game adjustments he made. Wainwright gave up two early runs, but was stellar after the first, allowing just one additional run and lasting 7 2/3 innings. He credited that improvement to changing his grip and arm slot to better suit the thin air of Coors Field.
It's something only a veteran, elite-level pitcher can pull off and could spell disaster for someone like Thursday's starter, rookie Michael Wacha.
"That's the last thing in the world you'd want to try and tell a young guy to do," Matheny said. "You're just flirting with really negative repercussions for that. So, I hope the guys weren't listening to that stuff. I want them to listen to 99.9 percent of everything else he says."
Matheny said it's not uncommon for Wainwright to tinker with his game during starts, adding another layer of difficulty for opposing batters.
"Not that he needs to go to trickery, but he's a survivor out there," Matheny said. "When he doesn't have his best stuff, he finds a way to survive until he finds his best stuff. Very rare."
Pitching can be a special kind of art form at Coors Field, as many pitchers say the elevation causes the ball to break differently than it does at any other park. Matheny, a Major League catcher for 13 years, played 32 games at Coors Field and saw firsthand how it can affect pitching strategy.
"I probably paid more attention to the bullpen [before the game] here than anywhere else," Wainwright said. "A lot of times you go out … you had some of your worst stuff in the pen, you come out to the mound and it was drastically different. But typically the ball will tell you what each pitch is going to do once you got to the mound.
"So, had to kind of rework the game plan to figure out what our secondary pitches were going to be and what the game plan was going to be with a flat breaking ball."
Cards hopeful Adams can return Friday
DENVER -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny feared he may lose first baseman Matt Adams for more than a few days as of Wednesday night.
After Allen Craig sprained his left foot on Sept. 4, St. Louis was already running low on options at first base. It became an even more pressing issue when Adams left Wednesday's game in the bottom of the seventh with shooting pain in his right elbow that prevented him from swinging a bat.
But Matheny could breathe a sigh of relief Thursday morning as Adams said the elbow felt "better than what I expected" the morning after.
"Real good news," Matheny said. "We were obviously concerned and Allen down puts a lot of need for us to have Matt ready."
Adams sported a red neoprene sleeve on his right arm, his elbow taped up beneath it and said he will receive a brace that will keep him from overextending the elbow Friday. According to Matheny, Adams also had no trouble swinging a bat before Thursday's series finale against the Rockies.
What Adams described as a "tingling" sensation had also subsided.
"It's a good sign," Adams said. "It's all better now. Just continue to follow the treatment and go from there."
That treatment is trying to lessen inflammation in his right elbow and Adams said the pain isn't as bad as it was last year, when he had surgery to remove bone spurs from the same elbow with Triple-A Memphis. He's hoping that means treatment alone will be enough to let it fully heal in the offseason.
"Hopefully, we don't need to go the surgery route," Adams said. "Hopefully, it's just rest and make sure we do the right treatment to be able to knock it out of there."
Matheny said Adams has battled through pain in his right elbow for several months, but hoping he'll be back in the lineup Friday and would be available off the bench Thursday.
"I think he's been managing it for a couple months," Matheny said. "I can't remember the last time I saw him swing and miss and not do something to his elbow. So, they're going to continue to look at it. I think he also realizes right now that you just got to push [through it]."
Molina makes rare start at first base
DENVER -- Yadier Molina made his second start at first base this season Thursday against the Rockies in place of Mike Adams, who's resting with elbow soreness.
Molina has played nine games at first base, batting .333 (5-for-15) with four RBIs. He thrived offensively in one game playing first this season, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs.
Manager Mike Matheny knew Molina could use a day off behind the plate, but wanted to keep the bat that's plated three runs in the first three games of the series in his lineup.
"As soon as Matt [Adams] went down last night, started trying to put my mind to what we were going to do," Matheny said. "Catching last night, there was a couple high-pressure games in a row and any kind of rest we can get him, even though it's not complete, you also want to keep his bat in the lineup the way he's been swinging it."
One of the most well-rounded catchers in the Majors, Molina was batting .319 with 41 doubles, 12 homers and 69 RBIs entering Thursday.
• Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Joe Kelly would throw a bullpen session before Thursday's game and, pending the result, is still in strong position to make his next start Sunday at Milwaukee. Kelly was pulled after the fifth inning Tuesday night with tightness in his right calf, but has not had any setbacks since.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.