Michael Wacha, out since June 17 with a stress reaction in his right shoulder, has been given clearance by the Cardinals’ medical staff to begin a throwing program today.
General manager John Mozeliak wouldn’t speculate on how long it would be before the righthander could pitch again, but he said he asked the question of the club’s medical staff, “Are you optimistic that he will pitch this year in the major leagues? They said, ‘Yes.’
"At the end of the day, it’s whether you do or you don’t,” said Mozeliak. “But ‘optimism’ is a fair word right now.”
Mozeliak said Wacha, who had an MRI on Monday, would be re-evaluated again in two weeks to ascertain how his shoulder has reacted to the stress of the throwing program. But Mozeliak said, “It’s shown a lot of healing. The inflammation appears to be down in that area. Now, he’s ready for that next step.”
Wacha is 5-5 with a 2.71 earned run average in 15 starts.
BENCH HELP NEEDED?
As the Cardinals play the final one-third of their schedule, two trouble areas are in need of a tuneup.
First is their lack of power off the bench. Cardinals pinch hitters have a not-very-gaudy .221 average but, more to the point, they have had just seven extra-base hits in 131 pinch at-bats.
Peter Bourjos has a double and a triple. Daniel Descalso has three doubles. Nobody has a home run.
“Over the next couple of weeks, if we find we can help our bench, we’ll certainly pursue it,” Mozeliak said. “I’m open to that.”
CARDS ARE RUN ON MORE
The second trouble area: Since Yadier Molina went out with a torn ligament in his right thumb, opponents have stolen 15 bases in 16 attempts against the Cardinals, including 12 of 13 against Tony Cruz, who often hasn’t had much chance because of pitchers being slow to the plate.
Former Boston righthander John Lackey, while impressing all in his Cardinals debut, has had a history of not defending the running game well. Opponents have swiped 16 bases in 17 attempts against Lackey this season, including one Sunday, although catcher A.J. Pierzynski made a strong throw. Pierzynski has thrown out nine of 49 runners, but one-third of those attempts were with Lackey on the mound.
Gold Glover Molina has thrown out 17 of 35 would-be basestealers, the top success rate in the majors.
Justin Masterson, the other new Cardinals’ starting pitcher, has permitted just two steals in five attempts this year.
PUJOLS EVENT STILL BIG
Four Cardinals managers, three of whom are in the Hall of Fame, highlighted the celebrities that Albert Pujols’ annual golf tournament drew to the St. Louis area on Monday. The tournament, which raises money through the Pujols Family Foundation, now carries Matt Holliday’s name, and the outfielder hosted the event at Meadowbrook Country Club. Holliday has helped to keep the event thriving in recent years after Pujols’ departure from the Cardinals as a free agent to the Los Angeles Angels.
Tony La Russa, fresh from his induction at Cooperstown last month, attended along with fellow Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst and Whitey Herzog, and current manager Mike Matheny made an appearance before attending another charity event Monday. Comedian George Lopez, Meadowlark Lemon, and former Cardinals Jim Edmonds and Jake Westbrook participated in the golf.
Pujols could not attend because the Angels had a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night. His wife, Deidre, said there was thought that the St. Louis tournament “might slow down … (but) instead of shutting down we went to three more places.”
She also said that the season has been rewarding because of Pujols’ health and the Angels’ success.
“The first couple years were hard to watch,” she said. “It didn’t seem like the guy that we all have known over the years. He’s my husband first, so I celebrate him in that way. I’m just like, now, I’m ready to be back in the playoffs. It will be exciting to see how the year ends.”
Holliday does not golf, joking he’s the new “pretty face” of the event.
“Today is not the day to start my golf career,” Holliday said. He did suggest one way he would tee off at the event.
“I would take a few rips with a baseball bat,” Holliday said.
Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright again is raising money for charity with his second annual “Waino’s World of Fantasy Football” draft day experience at Busch Stadium on Aug. 15. Proceeds will benefit Operation Food Search, Habitat for Humanity, the Big League Impact Basic Needs Initiative and Cardinals Care.
Participants of the event can play fantasy football with Wainwright and teammates Lance Lynn, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller, as well as former Rams greats Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner. To register, fans can visit bigleagueimpact.org.
Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.