Contrite Wainwright explains Jeter comments
Cardinals ace apologizes for suggesting he took it easy on Yankees star
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was supposed to be the night that the spotlight finally shone on Adam Wainwright, the two-time National League Cy Young Award runner-up who has found himself habitually overshadowed in his career.
By the time Tuesday night's All-Star Game came to an end, Wainwright couldn't wait to escape it.
Making the first All-Star start of his career, Wainwright did not perform as he hoped in the NL's 5-3 loss, and then he found himself in a maelstrom after he said he had planned to give Derek Jeter "a couple he could hit."
The comments, which created a social-media stir before the game even ended, came from Wainwright as he gathered with about two dozen media members outside the clubhouse during the third inning. He had thrown 21 pitches in the first, his only inning, one of those was a cutter that Jeter, in his first career at-bat against Wainwright, lined to right field for a double.
Asked about facing Jeter in what was the shortstop's final All-Star Game, Wainwright called it an honor and a career memory. And specifically of that pitch, Wainwright referred to it as a "pipe shot," a comment that suggested he was trying to make it easier for Jeter to play into the narrative that this was his night.
"I didn't know he was going to hit a double or else I would have changed my mind on that," Wainwright said, smiling as he finished that thought. "I thought he was going to hit something hard to right for a single or an out. I probably should have pitched him a little bit better."
Already a somewhat unpopular choice to start the game to those who favored Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Wainwright's comments swiftly cast him as disrespectful toward the Yankees' future Hall of Famer.
Wainwright learned of the brewing controversy after returning to the dugout to watch the rest of the game and gathered with the media again once the night ended to clarify his earlier comment.
"Listen, I totally created something here that I did not want to create," Wainwright said. "In light of me giving up three runs, I wanted to come out there and pout, but I didn't do that. I was trying to give the hitters credit at making good swings. Sometimes I just get a little carried away. I always try to be fair to the media. I never give one word answers. I try to really go into in-depth things. Sometimes I get carried away talking in two different fronts instead of just answering the question."
Wainwright went on to emphasize that after falling behind in the count, 1-0, he did intend to throw Jeter a pitch over the plate. That's because Wainwright, hardly a pitcher dependent upon strikeouts, hoped Jeter would put it in play and the defense could record the out behind him. Instead, Jeter drove it into right field.
"There are times where I've misspoken, and this is not going to be the last time," Wainwright said. "When I said 'down the pipe,' I should have said I tried to execute a strike. I didn't say that, so I'm probably going to take some heat.
"I just hope it doesn't take away from Derek's moment. I really do. If this comes back in a negative way at all, I really regret saying that stupid thing. If I'm going to get taken to the slaughterhouse for saying a stupid phrase, then I deserve it."
For about 10 minutes before boarding a chartered flight back to St. Louis, Wainwright was both self-deprecating and contrite in addressing what had become the topic of conversation on the night. He also insisted that he would never put his team in jeopardy of losing a game that determines home-field advantage in the World Series. Wainwright even took the opportunity to poke fun at himself, noting that the "people in New York already don't like me."
That was, of course, in reference to the part Wainwright played in dashing the Mets' World Series aspirations with one two-strike curveball back in the 2006 NL Championship Series.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who selected Wainwright to start Tuesday's game, also jumped to his ace's defense.
"Anybody that knows anything about this guy knows that he's one of the greatest competitors that played this game in a long time," Matheny said. "Adam Wainwright went out there to compete, and he was excited about the opportunity to try to compete against one of the greatest of all times in our game and one of the greatest ambassadors this game has ever seen in Derek Jeter. Nothing but respect for him, nothing but respect for this game. And all he wanted to do is go out there and put his best against Jeter."
Jeter was asked about the at-bat afterward, too, though the questioner replaced Wainwright's actual wordage and instead told the shortstop Wainwright admitted to grooving him pitches.
"He grooved them?" Jeter responded. "The first was a little cutter he threw down and away. He probably assumed I was swinging, so he didn't groove the first one. The second one was about 98 [mph], two-seamer that I stayed on really good. I don't know, man."
And Wainwright even did, too, at the end of a long night, one that he insisted would still be remembered fondly.
"If you can't laugh at yourself when you mess up, then you're going to continue to mess up," Wainwright said. "You know what? I messed up. But I didn't try to let him get a hit. I didn't mess up in that way. I messed up speaking. Sometimes the reaction is fair to a dumb comment. I hate that a dumb comment came after a really poor performance as well."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.