"I always thought it would be a little sooner," Wainwright said Tuesday as he prepared to take the field as a Major Leaguer for the first time. "People always said it would be this year, but when you're a player, you don't really look at it that way. I thought it was going to be a little sooner.
"But now is perfect."
Wainwright was one of six players called up from Triple-A Memphis on Monday, after that team's season ended. It's unclear how he'll fit in the Cards' plans this fall, though he'll most likely pitch in relief. Every inning he pitches this month will add to the picture that Cardinals management has of Wainwright. Next spring, he's expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation.
"I'd like to show the people here that I can pitch up here," he said.
"I have my pom-poms right here. I'll be a cheerleader. I'm ready for whatever role. It's a good experience, whether I pitch a lot or just pitch a little bit. I'm just happy with my role and where I'm at right now. It's better than being back in Georgia."
Wainwright, acquired from the Braves in the same trade that brought Jason Marquis and Ray King over from Atlanta, started the season on an impressive roll. He faltered in midseason, posting ERAs above 5.00 in June, July and August, but by mid-August he had righted himself. Over Wainwright's last four starts, he went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 26 innings.
"At the beginning, I had the best stretch of my career," he said. "I was really locating the ball down in the zone. The further the season went, I think my arm angle dropped a little bit and the ball was up a little more, flattened out a bit. I don't know what caused it, but that's what it was.
"It took somebody who was on our team, Jeremy Cummings. He went down to Double-A and came back up, and he said my arm angle was different."
Duncan's big chance: Perhaps the most unexpected callup was Chris Duncan, the son of pitching coach Dave Duncan. The younger Duncan has played first base and outfield, pacing Memphis with 21 home runs.
"It was really exciting," Chris Duncan said of taking the field at Busch Stadium. "I've been here a lot of times, but it was mostly when I was younger. You know, to come in here and put a uniform on is pretty exciting."
Manager Tony La Russa enjoys seeing all of the new faces get a taste of big-league ball.
"It's a young player's dream to come up in September and get a feel for it," La Russa said. "It's a recognition that they're well thought of. Just observing gives them a lot of chances to compare what they do to the big leagues.
"And it will be good for us. I'm sure there will be a game or two where we bang guys, and we might not be able to do that otherwise."
The other new Cardinals called were pitchers Anthony Reyes and Randy Flores, outfielder Skip Schumaker and outfielder/first baseman John Gall.
Cardinals join relief effort: As part of the league-wide Hurricane Katrina relief effort, the Cardinals and the American Red Cross' St. Louis Chapter announced Tuesday that they will have volunteers accepting donations for hurricane victims from fans attending Wednesday's Cards-Cubs game.
Volunteers from the St. Louis Area Red Cross and Cardinals Care, along with wives of Cardinals players, will be stationed throughout Busch Stadium before and during the game. Fans will have an opportunity to make donations as they enter the stadium turnstiles, at various locations within the ballpark and at guest relations locations on levels 3 and 6.
Fans may also make donations at StlCardinals.com or MLB.com, at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-Help-Now. The Cardinals will also continue to accept donations from fans through the end of the current homestand at the Guest Relations booths. Checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross.
Bands return: In a follow-up to a similar campaign from 2004, Hardee's and the Cardinals have released a new "Go Cards" rally band. The new red-and-white rubber wristbands are available for $1 each at all St. Louis-area Hardee's locations, with proceeds going to Cardinals Care.
Today in Busch Stadium history: On Sept. 6, 2002, Andy Benes had a pair of base hits in a complete-game win over the Cubs and his younger brother, Alan. It was the first Major League matchup between the two brothers. Albert Pujols drove in four runs in the 11-2 victory.
Baby 'Birds: Wainwright pitched a fine game in Memphis' season finale on Monday, picking up the win in a 4-2 triumph over Albuquerque. The Redbirds finished with a 71-72 record. Wainwright struck out seven and walked two, allowing one run on five hits. ... Class A Quad Cities ended its regular season on a down note, falling, 5-4, against Southwest Michigan. Mike Ferris went 2-for-4 and Wes Swackhamer hit a home run. ... Short-season New Jersey lost, 3-2, in 10 innings to Staten Island. Quinton Robertson allowed a run on seven hits, striking out four and walking one, but received no decision.
The player of the day is Schumaker, who hit a solo home run and added a sacrifice fly to fuel Memphis' offense. The 25-year-old speedster finished with seven homers, almost as many as he totaled in his previous four professional seasons combined (eight in 414 games).
Coming up: The Cards host the Cubs at the current Busch Stadium for the final time on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Mark Mulder will aim for his 16th win for St. Louis against Hall of Fame-bound right-hander Greg Maddux.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.