Mets 9, Cardinals 8

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With the Cardinals’ pitching having been bashed around for two days, Mike Matheny approached Adam Wainwright this morning with the challenge of making the most of his pitch count, which was to be around 40.

Wainwright struck back with his own challenge, asking his manager what reward he would get if he managed to cover seven innings with those 40 pitches? Matheny told Wainwright that if he could do that, he’d get to pick his place in the batting order all season.

Wainwright grinned. It was on.

Wainwright had an efficient first inning, but as it turned out, he threw his 40th pitch in the third inning. Alas, he’ll be staying in the ninth spot for now.

“After the first, I looked up at seven pitches and was like, ‘Alright. Here we go. I can do this,’” Wainwright kidded afterward. “The second inning, the first guy hit a home run, so I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’ll let [Matheny] off the hook this time.’”

So where would Wainwright have put himself in the lineup?

“Third,” he answered. “Duh.”

***

So what exactly is the off-the-field value of a veteran? Consider that after Kolten Wong misplayed a groundball on Tuesday, fellow second baseman Mark Ellis immediately met him in the dugout to dissect what had gone wrong. Ellis explained why Wong should have tried to glove the ball with one hand instead of trying a two-handed play. It is a technique Wong has been trying to repeat in morning workouts, and Ellis used the opportunity for a teaching moment on Tuesday.

This is hardly the first time that one player competing for playing time with another invests in trying to make the other person better.

“He’s been nothing but helpful to me,” Wong said of Ellis. “He’s welcomed me with open arms and has been just a great mentor to me. That’s all I can ask for.”

***

Over on Cardinals.com, you can read about the slimming chances (likely no chance, now) that Oscar Taveras breaks camp with the Major League camp, Jason Motte’s latest step forward, Wainwright’s spring progress and another challenge practice for Matheny.

Oh, and Wong can do back flips. You’ll be able to read more about that in a story posted later tonight.

Follow me on Twitter (@LangoschMLB), Instagram (LangoschMLB) and Facebook (Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com)

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