Adam Wainwright autographs a jersey on Monday at the Cardinals' Winter Warmup at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

They have been teammates since September of 2005, hugged in celebration of a World Series title on the mound a year later and over the last 11 seasons set the record for most combined games as the starting pitcher and catcher in Cardinals’ history.

Despite all of their connections, however, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina could be united again heading into this season by one other, more intangible aspect of their game.
Perhaps never in their careers has either been more motivated to do well.

For Wainwright, the motivation comes after a couple of injury-affected seasons and the knowledge that he felt responsible for the Cardinals failing to advance to the playoffs last year.

As he took his turn in front of the media on Monday at the Winter Warmup at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch, Wainwright described his motivation as being at “an all-time high.”

“I plan on pitching a heck of a lot better this year than I did last year,” he said.

Wainwright was 13-9 last year, but saw his ERA rise to a career-high 4.62 as he tried to recover from the torn Achilles which he suffered in 2015.

Now 35, Wainwright said he “back to where he was” physically before a series of elbow injuries and then the torn Achilles, and that his improved health should make a big difference in his performance.

“From a team standpoint, not making the playoffs, it hurt, and to know from a personal standpoint that we missed by one game and if I win two more games we go to the postseason, that’s hard for me to swallow knowing I pitched the way I pitched,” Wainwright said.

“I just know traditionally I am so much better than that and am going to so much better than that. I battled the best I could do, honestly. There were times I could have got out of situations that I didn’t.”

Wainwright recalled a conversation early in his career with former manager Tony La Russa about how he always seemed to be able to make a pitch when he needed to. That didn’t happen last season.

“I’m not sure I made a big pitch to get out of a jam all year last year,” Wainwright said. “I saved up an entire year’s worth of great pitches for this year because I didn’t throw any last year.”

In Molina’s case, the motivation which manager Mike Matheny said will drive him this season came in November, when Molina saw his eight-year run of winning the Gold Glove come to an end as the Giants’ Buster Posey won instead for the first time.

Molina’s streak had been the longest by an NL catcher since Johnny Bench won 10 in a row from 1968 through 1977.

“To me, that’s his award,” said Matheny, who won it four times himself during his career. “This guy is as motivated as anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s going to be an animal when we show up at spring training. He’s going to want it back.”

Part of the reason for Posey’s victory was that Molina allowed a career-high 67 stolen bases, throwing out only 18 of 85 would-be basestealers. His success rate of 21 percent was almost exactly half his career average.

Matheny said he accepted the blame for that, along with the team’s pitchers, and vowed to make strategic changes this year to try to cut down on that total believing it had nothing to do with Molina’s throwing ability.

“We have to have a philosophy that this is not acceptable,” Matheny said of the high stolen base total. “We’re starting to see analytics proving every base is so valuable. To give a free one just makes no sense. Part of it is messaging, part of it is changing and doing things differently, how we’re holding the ball, throwing over (to first).

“We’ve been collecting data on how teams are doing things better than us and how we can not only catch them but pass them.

“It doesn’t take much to push Yadi but I think something like not having that award last year is going to be on his mind, whether he talks about it or not. I know personally how much that award means, and to see it kind of slip away it’s something you want back.”

Molina’s flight from Florida Monday was delayed by weather, but he still signed autographs even after the event was scheduled to close and then spent a few minutes with local reporters.

He admitted the result of the Gold Glove vote caught him a bit off guard.

“It surprised me a little bit,” Molina said. “When it didn’t go your way it makes you work harder. That’s where I am right now. I’m concentrating on trying to win it back. That’s in my mind. We’ll see what happens.”

Molina refused to blame his pitchers for his poor throwing percentage.

“They are going to do their job, I have to do mine,” he said. “I don’t blame anybody except me. Right now I am working to try to get better.”

Some other news, notes and quotes from Monday:

* Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said he is hopeful a decision about penalties against the team from Major League Baseball as a result of the hacking scandal from 2015 will be coming before the start of spring training.

“It’s just wait and see how it all plays out,” DeWitt said. “They’ve done a lot of investigative work and I think it’s at the point where the commissioner is pretty close to making a decision. We’ll react to whatever the commissioner says.”

DeWitt said waiting for the decision, which is expected to include a heavy fine but not the loss of draft picks, has not affected any moves the organization has or has not made.

“It’s just hanging out there,” he said. “I’d like to have it over with.”

* If Michael Wacha proves he is healthy this spring and there are no other injuries to the team’s projected starters, there is at least a possibility the Cardinals will consider going with a six-man rotation, Matheny said.

“We toy with everything,” Matheny said. “Don’t rule anything out.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains