Things went from bad to worse for Michael Wacha when an inflamed shoulder sent him to the DL for over a month from August to September. There had been high hopes that he'd be ready to take the next step in establishing himself as a solid major-league starter, but a 4.62 ERA and 1.44 WHIP built over 24 starts did just the opposite. He also managed to average just 5.5 innings per start while his strikeout rate fell for the third straight year. Wacha's array of struggles have sparked conversations about transitioning him to a relief role and dropping him from the rotation altogether, and based off last season's performance, St. Louis has every right to do so. Opponents owned a .289 batting average and .800 OPS when facing Wacha, both of which are career-highs for the 25-year-old righty. He'll likely stretch out during spring training in case injuries impact the Cards' projected starting five, but Wacha's 2017 may feature a transition to a super-relief role.
Wacha gave up three earned runs on five hits and one walk over four innings in Saturday's 5-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Mets. He struck out four. Wacha, who manager Mike Matheny confirmed Sunday will be in the starting rotation, has now posted a 2.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over his five spring starts while generating a 15:4 K:BB over 17 innings. He's been able to throw three pitches -- his fastball, changeup and curve -- with effectiveness this spring and could approach the career-high 17 wins he logged back in 2015 if he remains healthy.
Wacha gave up two earned runs on three hits over five innings in Monday's 6-3 Grapefruit League win over the Astros. He struck out four. Wacha continued his stellar spring with his longest outing to date, although he finally surrendered his first runs over four starts in the third inning. Two came on Colin Moran's two-run double down the right-field line, but Wacha bounced back to retire the next seven hitters to wrap up his afternoon. The right-hander has generated a 1.38 ERA through 13 innings and looks much closer to the pitcher that notched a career-high 17 wins in 2015 than the one that endured an injury-riddled 7-7 season last year. The ability to get hitters out with his full arsenal of pitches has been especially key to his success thus far, a trend that continued Monday. "When he has his stuff like he had today," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "I mean, I saw a strikeout with his fastball, which was really good, I saw a strikeout with his curveball, saw a strikeout with his changeup, saw a strikeout with his cutter. Those are all good signs. You can tell everything is right."
Wacha (2-0) notched three strikeouts in three scoreless innings in Wednesday's 9-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Nationals. He gave up two hits and one walk. Wacha worked three innings for the second straight start and boasts a perfect ERA through his first eight spring innings. He threw 53 pitches, 33 of which found the strike zone Wednesday. His superb showings this spring are going a long way to solidifying his bid for the fifth starter role, and Wacha remains highly satisfied with the way his conditioning is coming along. "I felt good out there, throwing a lot of strikes, working down in the zone," said Wacha, who's yet to allow an earned run in eight spring innings. "I didn't see any velocity [readings] out there today, but I know it feels good whenever I'm letting loose and letting it go. I'm just really happy with the way the arm feels and the body feels, for sure."
Wacha fired three scoreless frames in Friday's 2-1 extra-inning Grapefruit League win over the Nationals, surrendering three hits and one walk. He struck out two. Taking the hill for the second time this spring-- and on three days' rest -- Wacha turned in another encouraging effort, and has now given up just one unearned run over five innings overall. Particularly encouraging Friday was the fact that the right-hander faced a Nationals lineup that included Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper as its first three hitters. Wacha threw 48 pitches overall, 32 of which found the strike zone, and utilized both his fastball and changeup with success. Battling to secure the fifth spot in the rotation, the 25-year-old has made a solid case thus far, and will look to work up to four innings in his next start.
Wacha gave up one unearned run on four hits and one walk over two innings in Monday's 7-2 Grapefruit League win over the Red Sox. Wacha had an eventful pair of frames on the mound, working his way around an error in the first and leadoff walk in the second. The right-hander was able to throw all four of his pitches effectively and keep the ball down in the strike zone. His one run came after he surrendered back-to-back singles in the first to Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland following a Pau DeJong throwing error on a ball hit by Mookie Betts. Wacha was even better in the second, striking out Sandy Leon on three pitches and getting Dustin Pedroia to pop up to right field by catching him out ahead of his changeup. "I felt good today. Throwing a lot of strikes. Keeping the ball down in the zone," Wacha said after his outing and before trucking back to Jupiter, Fla. "There were good things, for sure. Early on, in my bullpens and in live BPs and stuff, I have made it a point to pitch down in the zone. That is one of the key things I wanted to establish today."