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Wacha likely to draw home opener as Cardinals reveal plan

Wacha likely to draw home opener as Cardinals reveal plan

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Derek Lilliquist, Michael Wacha, Yadier Molina

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha bumps the fist of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist as catcher Yadier Molina looks on before a game in Denver last June. (AP Photo)

JUPITER, Fla. • While reluctant to offer any details in ink for the pitching rotation and how it will begin the regular season, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did offer the largest clue of them all Thursday in Lakeland, Fla.

He said he doesn't plan on changing it.

With Adam Wainwright's start this afternoon against the Detroit Tigers at Roger Dean Stadium, the Cardinals intend to roll the five over, from now until the end of spring training and then into the regular season. Matheny allowed for the fact that any hiccup from one of the starters could bring a change or a delay to their schedule, but as of right now the Cardinals do not plan to use the off days in the opening weeks of the season as an opportunity to go with a four-man rotation.

With Michael Wacha following Wainwright in the rotation, that means the young righthander will score the second home opener of his career. Mike Leake will make his Busch Stadium III debut on April 13 against Milwaukee, and he will be the first Cardinals starter to face the Cubs this season based on the current schedule.

Here are the likely assignments for the first three series:

Opening day, at Pittsburgh: Wainwright

April 5, at Pittsburgh: Wacha

April 6, at Pittsburgh: Leake

April 8, at Atlanta: Jaime Garcia

April 9, at Atlanta: Carlos Martinez

April 10, at Atlanta: Wainwright

Home opener, vs. Milwaukee: Wacha

April 13, vs. Milwaukee: Leake

April 14, vs. Milwaukee: Garcia

April 15, vs. Cincinnati: Martinez

April 16, vs. Cincinnati: Wainwright

rinse, repeat

When the Chicago Cubs come to town for that first visit in April, the rotation will be this way, barring changes:

April 18, vs. Cubs: Leake

April 19, vs. Cubs: Garcia

April 20, vs. Cubs: Martinez

The Cardinals do have an off day on April 12 should they want to tweak these assignments in any way.

What this means in the immediate future is that Garcia and Martinez are likely to finish their spring training schedule while the team heads to Pittsburgh. Garcia would be set to throw on Friday, April 1, but with no game on the Cardinals' schedule they can leave him behind to appear in an extended spring game. Same with Martinez, who would get a game in Jupiter, Fla., on Saturday before jetting to Pittsburgh to join the team for the opening.

The Cardinals did consider the possibility that Martinez would need more time in Jupiter before the start of the season. Matheny said that the two pitchers left behind -- whom he did not identify; the schedule did -- would do so on the active roster and not be behind because their inactive for opening day.

ALSO: Catcher Brayan Pena felt a tightness in his right arm, on the back side of his upper arm, and has been limiting his throwing since Saturday. He'll throw at 120 feet to day as what he called the biggest test yet of his arm. The goal will be for him to return to the lineup this weekend.

Pena said the days off allowed the arm to recover, and the soreness is something he expected after not throwing much in the offseason.

"It feels pretty good," Pena said. "One step at a time."

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