Adam Wainwright couldn't help but flash a big grin. He had plenty of reason to be happy.
Starting for the first time in over a year, Wainwright pitched two scoreless innings for the St. Louis Cardinals in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
"Usually, I am real serious before a game," said Wainwright, who won 19 and 20 games in he two seasons before having elbow ligament replacement surgery last February. "Once I get kind of locked in, usually I don't have much emotion to show for guys saying, 'Let's go,' or anything like that.
"Today, when they said ... on the mound today, pitcher Adam Wainwright, the crowd kind of applauded, I was out there cheering in the outfield for sure."
Wainwright struck out two and walked one in his first outing since Sept. 24, 2010.
"I haven't accomplished anything yet, but there's a sense that my rehab process is coming to an end," Wainwright said. "I'm a normal pitcher again."
Wainwright's return for the Cardinals was balanced with some potentially troubling news: ace Chris Carpenter left Friday's practice session with a sore neck. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Carpenter as day to day.
Jason Marquis made his second start for Minnesota since coming over as a free agent in the offseason. The right-hander yielded one run on three hits and three walks over three innings, an
improvement on his four-run, three-hit debut against the Red Sox on Monday.
"It's spring training; you're allowed that time and the leeway to get beat around a little bit once in a while to figure it out," Marquis said. "I feel like I'm moving in the right direction."
For Wainwright, Friday was a huge step in the right direction. His only blemish was a walk in the second inning.
"He's competing," Matheny said. "You could tell from just the second he took the mound, just the look in his eyes and watching his demeanor, and there was nothing getting in the way of him competing. You know, these guys, this is what they do, and when you take it away from them, the opportunity to do it again brings out a little extra."
Wainwright was forced to watch last season from the sidelines as his team made a surprise run to the World Series championship.
"It's more frustrating now looking back than it was going through that," Wainwright said. "Realizing that I missed a World Series-winning team, to be able to play in it. I consider myself a competitor, so I want to be there more now than then."
Lance Berkman backed Wainwright by going 2 for 2 with a walk. Rafael Furcal added a solo home run.
Wilkin Ramirez had two hits for the Twins, who cut the deficit to one run in the ninth inning and loaded the bases but Rene Tosoni grounded out to end the threat.