The Cardinals will use Monday and how righty Michael Wacha recovers from his first game appearance in more than two months to determine if the starter needs another rehab appearance or can leap straight to the majors after Sunday’s outing.
Wacha pitched two scoreless and mostly uneventful innings for Class AA Springfield on Sunday night at Tulsa, allowing a hit and one walk and striking out a batter. Because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder, he hadn’t pitched since June 17.
With Class AAA Memphis qualifying for the Pacific Coast League postseason, the Cardinals could continue Wacha’s rehab assignment this week at that level, or they could elect to have him do the rest of his rehab while on the job in the majors.
“Hopefully this is just a step in getting back here and being 100 percent,” manager Mike Matheny said before Wacha’s outing. “We’ve been very cautious with this. The team didn’t push. It shows what the organization thinks of him. With this particular injury, we’ve been as protective as we can possibly be and still wanting not to shut him down.”
Matheny would not commit to a starter for Thursday’s game in Milwaukee, the game that would be Justin Masterson’s according to the current rotation.
The Cardinals optioned Marco Gonzales, who won Saturday night’s game, and lefty Tyler Lyons to Class AA on Sunday to create needed room on the roster. The two starters and reliever Nick Greenwood were assigned to Springfield so that they could return as early as Tuesday. They were not expected to leave St. Louis. Gonzales and Lyons are candidates to start Thursday’s game at Miller Park, Matheny said.
“Marco’s a possibility. Tyler is a possibility,” Matheny listed. “So we’ll see.”
He was then asked if Masterson, who has struggled, is not a possibility.
“Justin is a possibility.”
Wacha threw 34 pitches against Tulsa. Twenty-four were strikes. The righty, who was 5-5 with a 2.79 ERA when he went on the disabled list, got four of his outs on the ground. The Cardinals have not ruled out Wacha’s return to the majors for his next appearance, though the organization had intended to prepare him as a starter.
As part of a flurry of roster moves Sunday, the Cardinals also assigned reliever Jason Motte to Class AA Springfield to begin his rehab assignment. Motte has been sidelined several weeks with back discomfort, but he could return soon as rosters expand beyond the 25-man limit as of today.
Motte pitched a perfect eighth inning for Springfield. He got two groundouts and needed 12 pitches to retire all three batters he faced.
The Cardinals started their September promotions a day early by bringing back lefty Kevin Siegrist and shortstop Pete Kozma from Class AAA Memphis. Siegrist had been ticketed for a return after an assignment to reclaim consistency. He allowed one run and struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings as a reliever for the Triple-A Redbirds. Kozma’s promotion came at a time the Cardinals wanted to start Daniel Descalso at first base and get everyday first baseman Matt Adams a break.
Kozma had been the Redbirds’ everyday shortstop, and with his promotion Greg Garcia, who was in the majors just a week ago, will jump from the Class AA roster to Memphis to take over shortstop for the postseason. Garcia could return to the majors once Memphis’ season ends.
CARDS CAUTIOUS WITH WONG
Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong had to be evaluated for a concussion after his head slammed to the turf when trying to catch a popup in shallow right field Sunday. Wong left the game, but preliminary exams with at least two medical officials did not show any signs of a concussion, Matheny said. The Cardinals will re-evaluate the second baseman today.
“I was a little dizzy,” Wong said. “For precautionary sake, they just took me out. I guess I passed the concussion tests. Right now, I’ve just got a stiff neck and a little bit of a heavy head.”
Wong described how he fought the sun on a fly ball hit by Cubs infielder Chris Valaika. Wong bent backward as he tried, unsuccessfully, to catch the ball, and when he hit the ground his neck whiplashed. Matheny said the rookie “was going all out (because) he knew how important that out was.”
• With paid attendance of 45,148 for Sunday’s game the Cardinals eclipsed 3 million for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons and for the ninth consecutive year at Busch Stadium III. The Cardinals are on pace for 3.5 million tickets sold, and they hope to have more than 40,000 for every home date this season.
• With his solo homer Sunday, Wong became the youngest second baseman with at least 10 homers for the Cardinals since Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby hit 21 in 1921 at age 25.
• It’s unusual for someone in a visitor’s uniform to catch one of the ceremonial first pitches, but Cubs coach Bill Mueller did that Sunday. Mueller was invited to catch coach Greg Vitello, the retiring De Smet coach, who during his 45 years as soccer coach and 35 as baseball coach had Mueller as a student.