It looks like Michael Wacha is the front-runner in the race to be the St. Louis Cardinals' official Spring Training phenomenon.
There's still an entire month's worth of Spring Training to go, so it would be foolish to declare that Michael Wacha will remain the St. Louis Cardinals' Grapefruit League sweetheart, or that he'll be the only guy on that list; we haven't even gotten a run of .400 hitting from a 29-year-old AAA veteran yet. But after his first two appearances it seems safe to suggest that Wacha's out in front of the Cardinals' other candidates.
On Wednesday Wacha struck out five batters in three scoreless innings; in two appearances, now, he's at five innings and eight strikeouts. Which wouldn't be so impressive if it weren't so reminiscent of his minor league debut, which he also spent as an unhittable long reliever.
That, of course, is the most obvious reason to dial back immediate expectations for Wacha: We've still never seen him operate under a starter's workload. A strong start in the high minors should be enough to wipe out any lingering skepticism—I think it's totally plausible that Wacha will contribute meaningful big league innings in 2013—but a little lingering skepticism might be advisable in the meantime.
"I think that guy, right now, can pitch in the big league... That's the way I look at it. He has great stuff. He has a great presence on the mound. He has great command, a great attitude."
Doesn't Yadier Molina know that I'm trying my damnedest to repeat "small sample size" to myself over and over until it sticks?