After Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entirety of the Cardinals' 2011 World Series championship season, Wainwright will get the ball Saturday at Miller Park against Zack Greinke and the Brewers.
It's been a while since the Cards' righty pitched, his last outing coming September 24, 2010, against the Cubs. With a solid spring, manager Mike Matheny noted, "he's way further along than I ever thought," but that doesn't mean the club won't be monitoring Wainwright closely.
"I think we'd be wrong not to still monitor," Matheny said. "That's still the intention, no matter how well he's throwing. Make sure we're not pushing him too far, too fast."
It'll be the second game of a three-game set between the two teams, who finished 1-2 in the National League Central last season. Though the Brewers won the division, the Cardinals disposed of them in six games when the two met in the NL Championship Series.
Wainwright said he's glad he's facing the division-rival Brewers in his first start, noting familiarity might help.
"I've had quite a few starts against them in the past and know what their most of their hitters are trying to do up there," he said. "... At the end of the day, if I know what they're doing and they know what I'm doing, it all comes down to me making pitches."
Zack Greinke gets the ball for the Brewers after a very strong spring. Greinke, like Wainwright, started the 2011 season on the DL. But Greinke returned from a cracked rib to go 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 2011.
Greinke's teammate Ryan Braun liked what he saw from the 28-year-old righty in the Cactus League. Greinke was dominant for most of camp, carrying a 0.93 ERA into his final start, where he struggled and that number rose to 2.82.
"I think he's on a mission," Braun said. "I think he's very determined to have a dominant season, truly a great season. His stuff was there from his very first Spring Training game. The way he was competing and going about his business, you can tell he's excited to get started."
Cardinals: Club on a Central swing The Cardinals' season opener in Miami on Wednesday was an odd way to begin the regular season -- a single game before they headed Milwaukee for their first "series" of the year. It was also the only game St. Louis will play all month outside of its division.
Beginning with Friday's win over the Brewers, the Cardinals kicked off a slate of 27 consecutive divisional contests. They will play each team in the NL Central six times, except for Houston, who they meet for three in early May.
The next game outside of the NL Central for the Cards will be at Arizona on May 7.
With their 11-5 win over Milwaukee on Friday, the Cardinals improved to 2-0 on the season. They haven't started a year 3-0 since their 2006 championship campaign.
Brewers: Is home still sweet for Greinke?
Greinke has never lost a game at Miller Park. He was a perfect 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA during the regular season last year before going 2-0 in the playoffs. Compare that to his 5-6 record and his 4.70 ERA on the road last year.
As for manager Ron Roenicke's decion to start Gallardo in the season opener, Greinke was completely on board.
"I felt like he was our guy last year, and he's been here the longest," Greinke said before Gallardo got hit hard by St. Louis in 3 2/3 innings. "As of right now, he's still going to be here the longest. I think it makes a lot of sense. I didn't earn anything last season to be able to take over."
Worth noting Aramis Ramirez may be a newcomer to the Brewers, but he is no stranger to facing the Cardinals, having spent all of his 14 seasons in the NL Central. Ramirez has played in 160 games against the Cards in his career, and he has fared well, posting a .301 batting average.
With Friday's victory, the Cardinals have scored 84 runs in their last 13 games against Milwaukee, including the six games they played in last season's NLCS.
Greinke started two games against the Cardinals in last season's NLCS, going 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA. Despite giving up six runs in Game 1, he got the win. He then surrendered just two earned runs in Game 5, but took the loss.