St. Louis Cardinals pitchers get assistance from manicurists

St. Louis Cardinals pitchers get assistance from manicurists


If you’ve ever been suspicious that the tall fellow with a camouflage hat pulled low over his eyes who was seated next to you at the salon was someone you recognized from television, it’s possible you were correct.

For Adam Wainwright to practice his craft at the highest level, he needs regular manicures.

“It didn’t start until they made those (harder) balls in 2018, 19. That’s when it really started being bad,” Wainwright explained, displaying a small, dark bump just underneath the nail of the middle finger on his pitching hand. “I always get kind of a little blood blister like that, but my nail started breaking when we got those harder balls that were flying like crazy.

“A lot of people are usually pretty caught off guard that I’m in there.”

This week’s back and forth discussion about the quality of baseballs currently being used in the majors — Chris Bassitt of the Mets was critical, Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals disagreed, and Wainwright said he was waiting until the weather warmed up to pass judgment — highlights the sensitivity that top flight pitchers have in their hands.

A lay person who picks up two random balls from the field at Busch Stadium might have difficulty in discerning many differences. A professional whose livelihood in part relies on their ability to dig a nail between a ball’s seams to spin it toward home plate at a couple thousand revolutions per minute will be much more attuned to the differences.

What sounds like a minor inconvenience can blossom into a major issue when it happens at an inopportune time. Closer Giovanny Gallegos was called into duty in the eighth inning during last year’s Wild Card game in Los Angeles, only to have one of his nails split.

That left Gallegos unable to pitch the ninth, so he warmed up as a decoy, and then yielded to TJ McFarland and, eventually, Alex Reyes, who allowed a game-winning, season-ending home run to Chris Taylor after being pressed into service where he ordinarily, ideally would not have been.

The Cardinals’ training staff is well equipped to handle minor issues as they arise. Outfielder Corey Dickerson, for instance, took time during pregame this week to dive into a medical supply bag for a nail clipper and then returned to his work.

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright tips his cap to fans after getting the final out of a complete game, two-hit, shut-out of the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. Wainwright has employed manicures as part of his regular maintenance routine and suggested the practice to other teammates, including fellow hurler Génesis Cabrera, who also is now utilizing a manicurist. Gene J. Puskar AP

Waino pleased with the service

Wainwright’s needs are somewhat more acute, so he decided to seek outside assistance.

“I go to the salon and do it and sit there among people getting pedicures and manicures to get one (false) fingernail put on,” Wainwright explained, “and I leave out of there as fast as I can.”

Evidently he’s been pleased with the service, because he’s started making referrals to teammates.

Hard-throwing lefty reliever Génesis Cabrera has had issues with his own middle fingernail for most of his career. At semi-regular intervals during the season — often in the middle of a game — the nail would split, and Cabrera would have to leave, putting his team in a difficult position and leaving him unavailable for a matter of days while he healed.

Wainwright suggested his manicurist. Cabrera took him up on the suggestion.

“You’ve got to do it right,” he said through Spanish translator and bullpen catcher Kleininger Teran.

Cabrera’s rigorous routine

Cabrera’s regimen is more intense even than Wainwright’s. He displayed a nail with a thick, clear coating not unlike a gel manicure. The coating, he explained, is a special polish designed to build up the nail’s natural strength and prevent breaking.

The process has to be repeated every four days, so Cabrera is amid seeking out regular haunts he can visit on road trips. Last weekend, in Cincinnati, he took pictures and signed autographs — once his nail was dry, of course.

In 2019, a report published by MLB found that some irregularities in the manufacturing of baseballs had caused a drop in the seam height of an average ball of less than .001 inches — still enough to decrease drag on the baseball by 35%.

That meant, for pitchers like Wainwright, the balls felt like “Pinnacles,” as he described them, referring to a brand of golf ball.

Family bonding

Still, one even less expected side effect of the manufacture of harder baseballs was the chance for Wainwright and his four daughters to turn some maintenance for work into a little bit of family bonding.

“Sometimes I take my girls,” Wainwright said, “and we go and let them get manicures. I get my nail put on it and I make sure I go sit in the chair so everybody knows I’m not sitting there getting … not that there’s anything wrong with it,” he added with haste.

Despite patronizing a full-service salon, Wainwright has yet to avail himself of the other available nail care options. He’s not throwing any curveballs with his feet, so to date, he hasn’t felt the need to round off his visits with a matching pedicure.

“There’s a lot of guys who get manicures and pedicures,” he noted. “I’m just not one of them. I don’t want people touching on me like that.”

Cleat manufacturers, take note.

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Jeff Jones Provided

This story was originally published April 30, 2022 8:00 AM.


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