Before Michael Wacha will get the chance to show he can handle the full-season workload he desires, the Cardinals want to start with how he finishes.
In a move the club believes will protect the righthander from the late-season fade and shoulder troubles that have eroded two of his previous seasons, Wacha had his start skipped entirely in this turn of the rotation. That decision was presented to Wacha, not pursued by Wacha. His next start is scheduled for Friday against San Francisco, 12 days after he threw his fifth quality start of the young season.
“We’re going to do everything we can to give Michael every chance to be the kind of pitcher at the end of the season that he is right now,’ manager Mike Matheny said. “This is one of those opportunities right now. He wants the ball. He feels good. He looks good. It’s just a matter of how we keep him there.”
People are also reading…
Through six starts, Wacha has averaged more than six innings in each appearance, and his earned run average has reached 3.19 after he allowed six runs in his past 12 innings. The righthander has shown a spike in his fastball velocity, up to a 94.4 mph average after 93.2 mph last season, and a more familiar effectiveness with his changeup.
In his career, Wacha (2-1 this season) has an ERA in the second half that is almost a run higher than his first-half success. His ERA jumped to greater than 4.00 after his All-Star Game selection in 2015, and in the past three seasons he’s had a 5.11 second-half ERA. That was most acute last season when the second-half ERA soared to 7.44 and for the second time in three seasons he was placed on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his right scapula.
The off days this week before a June crunch that has 47 games in 48 days offered the Cardinals a chance to give Wacha the planned break. His only throws so far have been in a bullpen session.
“You might not be afforded that opportunity again before the All-Star break,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “If you are always kicking the can down the road, you can end up being like, ‘Uh-oh, it’s too late.’ So, anything you can bank now is smart.”
Wacha made it clear that “anything like this wasn’t my idea.”
This past winter, Wacha and his agent sought out Brandon McCarthy for advice on his workouts. Wacha and McCarthy are the most high-profile pitchers to deal with the stress reaction or stress fracture in their shoulder, and McCarthy overcame the chronic issue to throw 200 innings in 2014. Wacha took control of his offseason work and reported to spring training intent on winning a spot in the rotation – and holding it for what he defined as a starter’s standard contribution, 32 starts. He modified his between-start work also to focus on maintaining strength in the shoulder and avoid the recurring injury.
The Cardinals believe his final eight or 10 starts this season could be stronger if they only asked him to make 28 to 30.
“It’s probably only how I’ll be feeling for the second half of the season; that type of deal,” Wacha said. “I want to be there for September, October, and into the playoffs. That’s the goal.”
CHAMPS OF ’67 TO BE HONORED
Manager Red Schoendienst and 13 members of the 1967 World Series champion Cardinals, who beat Boston in that Series, will be honored before Wednesday night’s game with the Red Sox.
The ceremony will begin at 6:35 p.m. with an appearance from the Budweiser Clydesdales. Members from the 1967 team then will be introduced via a motorcade. Scheduled to appear are Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, Mike Shannon, Orlando Cepeda, Steve Carlton, Dick Hughes, Julian Javier, Ray Washburn, Larry Jaster, Bobby Tolan, Ed Spiezio and Ted Savage.
Both the Cardinals and the Red Sox will commemorate the 50th anniversary of their World Series by wearing 1967 throwback uniforms.
GO, GO GARCIA
Adolis Garcia, the Cuban outfielder the Cardinals signed during spring training, stole home Sunday as part of a rally for the Class AA Springfield Cardinals. Garcia tied the score at 7-7 when he bolted from third as Arkansas’ catcher returned the ball to the pitcher. Garcia easily beat the quick return throw.
Assigned to Class AA to start the season as the center fielder there — wedged between Class AAA starter Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra in Class A — the 24-year-old Garcia has had flashes of the game the Cardinals expect. He has hit .265 with a .407 slugging percentage and three home runs while striking out 27 times in 113 at-bats.
PITCHING HELP IS AVAILABLE
As the Cardinals approach June’s rigorous test of their pitching depth, two pitchers who started the year injured — Marco Gonzales (elbow) and Luke Weaver (back) — are gaining traction at Class AAA Memphis. Gonzales made his first Triple-A game appearance Sunday since Tommy John surgery last year, and the lefty threw seven strong innings. He struck out six, allowed one run (a homer) and walked only one.
Weaver allowed his first run at Class AAA, striking out nine, on Saturday during his seven-inning start and his first 100-pitch outing of the season. In three starts for Memphis, Weaver is 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA and 19 strikeouts compared to just one walk.