Adam Wainwright throws first batting practice session of the spring

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Adam Wainwright required Tommy John surgery after feeling discomfort in his right elbow while throwing batting practice almost exactly one year ago. Earlier today, Wainwright was right back at it, throwing batting practice to teammates at Cardinals’ camp in Jupiter, Florida.

While Wainwright hasn’t felt any soreness or tightness in his surgically-repaired elbow thus far, he told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that he was relieved to put this first session of batting practice behind him.

“This [gave] me a chance to conquer it,” Wainwright said. “This [gave] me a chance to get over that.”

Wainwright threw both fastballs and breaking pitches to infielder Tyler Greene and minor league first baseman Matt Adams during today’s 11-minute session. He told Langosch that he was pleased with his command and found himself throwing with more intensity than in recent bullpen sessions.

“Each time I throw, I let my body do it naturally,” Wainwright said. “I’m not trying to force anything. I’m out there just going through my delivery and my arm. Whatever comes out of it is what’s going to come out of it. Today, I noticed there was a little more something there then there was before.”

Wainwright was one of the best starting pitchers in the game prior to the surgery, posting a 2.93 ERA from 2007-2010. He eclipsed 230 innings in 2009 and 2010, finishing in the top three for the National League Cy Young Award in each season.

The defending World Series champions won’t have Albert Pujols at first base this season, but the return of Wainwright and the addition of Carlos Beltran should put them in fine position to be contenders once again.

MLBPA thinks all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration

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There’s something interesting deep in Ken Rosenthal’s latest notes column. It’s about arbitration, with Rosenthal reporting that the players union believes that all 30 teams will take a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration this winter.

If you’re unfamiliar with this, it breaks down thusly:

  • In mid-January, teams and players who are eligible for arbitration will exchange proposed salary figures. The player says what he thinks he’s worth based on comparable players of his quality and service time and the team will propose a lower counter-figure;
  • Generally, the parties then use these proposals as negotiable figures and eventually reach a compromise deal, usually near the midpoint between the two figures, avoiding arbitration;
  • If a deal cannot be reached, they go to an arbitration hearing and arbitrators pick one of the numbers. They CANNOT give a compromise award. It’s either the higher player’s number or the lower team number.

In the past, a handful of teams — most typically the Blue Jays, Braves, Marlins, Rays, and White Sox — employed a “file- and-trial” approach, meaning that they treated the figure exchange date as a hard deadline after which they refused to negotiate and stood content to go to a hearing. As more teams have adopted this approach, there have been more arbitration hearings. As Rosenthal notes, last year there were more hearings than in any offseason for the past 25 years. Now, the union thinks, every team will do this. If they do, obviously, there will be even more hearings.

There is certainly an advantage to file-and-trial for a team. It makes the player and the agent work harder and earlier in order to be prepared to negotiate with the club before the file deadline. It also makes them work a lot harder to come up with a defensible filing number given that, rather than merely being an opening salvo in an extended negotiation, it’s something that they will certainly have to defend in open court. It’s also simple hardball. Teams have greater resources than the players and the agents and it’s less painful for them to pay for lawyers and hearing prep and to conduct the actual hearing. There’s risk to the team, of course — they might lose and pay more than a settlement would’ve cost — but teams are obviously concluding that the risk is worth it.

The only question I have is, if the union is right and all 30 teams will now proceed this way, how was that decided? Everyone suddenly, after several decades of arbitration, simply decided to take the same approach? Or was there, I dunno, a meeting in which the strategy was coordinated? Inquiring minds want to know!