It’s been two years or maybe a millennium since Albert Pujols entered camp as a walking deadline. The Cardinals’ first baseman found a media horde awaiting his arrival and spent more than 30 minutes alternately clarifying, lecturing and at times scolding those wanting to hear his views on life as a pending free agent.

Talks with the club about a contract extension died the day Albert dressed out for his first workout. The next time the three-time NL most valuable player devoted so much time to discussing the topic before so many people fell 10 months later after he signed a massive 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

No matter how many signs tilted to Pujols leaving Baseball Heaven, his decision stunned — no, bruised — many within the fan base. Yet in the days following the deal, the Cardinals seemed the more relieved party.

Now it is Adam Wainwright’s turn to enter camp as a man in waiting.

Wainwright is nine months shy of reaching free agency for the first time, less than two months away from making the opening day start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. A nervous fan base understandably squirms.

Waino has tendered no deadline. He has yet to castigate media for doing their job. Without fail he has been cordial to front office types.

In other words, he has been Waino.

Make no mistake, the Cardinals and their ace are engaging in big-boy poker. Each party possesses massive leverage, enough to walk away from the table knowing life beyond this season will remain prosperous and productive.

If the Cardinals are bigger than Pujols, they are also bigger than Wainwright.

Wainwright likewise has enough career remaining that he wouldn’t be defined solely by his eight seasons here.

Two years ago centrifugal force seemed to be pushing the Cardinals and Pujols apart. The club “stretched” to deliver a nine-year offer to its iconic player. By then Pujols long had become irritated by the organization’s tepid attempt to engage him in talks after signing Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million deal that left Pujols the team’s second-highest paid position player. Pujols’ relationship with general manager John Mozeliak had begun to unravel.