After being sidelined for more than a month in 2016 by a recurring shoulder injury — and struggling conspicuously when he was able to take the mound — Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha has looked sharp in his spring outings thus far as he prepares to reclaim a spot in St. Louis’s starting rotation and prove he can physically withstand a season’s workload.
The impending year-long absence of rookie hurler Alex Reyes vacated a spot in the Cardinals’ loop of hurlers, a group that entered camp rather solidified, with Reyes starting alongside fellow righties Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, and Lance Lynn. Reyes’ need for Tommy John surgery about a month ago changed that, nonetheless, and cleared the pathway for Wacha to serve in a starter’s role as opposed to in the bullpen, where it may seem more sensible for him to get his work.
Wacha’s shoulder injury, a right scapular stress fracture, frankly has no bona fide cure (as far as surgical procedures go) and rest — or, in theory, pitching in smaller quantities — is the most common alleviator of the ailment.
Here’s a little more on the injury, credits to a a Beyond the Box Score article:
Brandon McCarthy of the Los Angeles Dodgers suffers from the same injury; the 33-year-old was diagnosed in the summer of 2009 and, for context, has made just thirteen starts with the Dodgers since he signed with Los Angeles back in 2014.
Wacha, however, is looking to set his own pace.
Since being diagnosed in 2014 and missing substantial time to close out the year, Wacha glided through the 2015 season unscathed and, excluding a span from August 9 to September 14, did as such in 2016. Last year was strange though. Wacha’s season on the whole was hampered as he hurled with the injury lingering, reflected by his .284 BAA and 2.93 BB/9 over 138 innings across 27 games (24 starts).
In quite the early bounce back from a subpar 2016, Wacha has made three starts for the Cardinals in the spring exhibition season and — perhaps more important than the results — has done so with no injury setbacks. With a start against the Boston Red Sox and two more against the Washington Nationals, Wacha has logged eight innings, allowing no earned runs and punching out seven batters.
Having last started on Wednesday, March 8, Wacha is due to make his fourth outing of the still-young spring on Monday, March 13, against the Houston Astros and, shall he continue working on the same schedule, will make at least two more starts after Monday.
With the very early results fit to please, it’s more desirable that Wacha work through his spring slate free of any shoulder flare-ups. If Wacha can keep fair health in his corner, pleasing results will come of the Cardinals’ former first-round pick.