Just over a year ago, Todd Wellemeyer was designated for assignment by one of the worst teams in baseball. Now, he's one of the key pieces of the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation.
Wellemeyer looks to extend his career-high winning streak to five games in the first game of a day-night doubleheader against the struggling Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Wellemeyer (6-1, 3.16 ERA) was scheduled to pitch Wednesday, but the game was postponed by inclement weather. It was the first rainout during the inaugural season at Nationals Park.
However, the postponement won't affect St. Louis' rotation, thanks to an off day on Monday.
"The biggest problem usually is what it does to your pitching," manager Tony La Russa told the Cardinals' official Web site. "But it turns out that Wellemeyer would have pitched Tuesday with an extra day, and now he just pitches Tuesday on regular time. So the biggest problem is not going to be our problem."
On May 10, 2007, Wellemeyer was cut by Kansas City - the team with the worst record in the AL at the time - after going 0-1 with a 10.34 ERA in 12 relief outings. The Cardinals (35-25) claimed the right-hander off waivers last season, and he began 2008 in the rotation due to injuries to several starters.
Originally expected to return to the bullpen, Wellemeyer has kept the Cardinals near the top of the NL Central by going 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his last six starts.
"I kind of know I belong," said Wellemeyer, who has pitched six or more innings in 10 of his 12 starts and limited opponents to a .221 batting average. "They gave me an opportunity and I'm going to make the best of it. I'm not trying to think too much out there, just pitching."
Wellemeyer was impressive again Friday, allowing one run and six hits in seven innings of a 5-4 win over Pittsburgh. He also helped himself with a sacrifice fly in the second.
Wellemeyer is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and a save in seven relief appearances against Washington (24-35). He'll try to extend his winning streak by helping the Cardinals build on Tuesday's 6-1 win over Washington, a game that was delayed more than 2 1/2 hours due to rain.
Slugger Albert Pujols left that game with tightness in his left calf and was scheduled to get Wednesday off. La Russa said Pujols will likely sit out both games of the doubleheader.
"I don't think he'll play tomorrow," La Russa said.
Rookie Joe Mather could get his first career start at first base in place of Pujols. Mather, who started in right field Tuesday before moving to first after Pujols exited, has gone 4-for-16 with an RBI in five games since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis.
The Nationals have been outscored 15-1 during a three-game slide, and are hitting .170 (16-for-94) during their losing streak.
"I don't think we have anything to gain for it," manager Manny Acta said of the rainout. "All the banged-up guys are already on the DL, and our pitching staff is in good shape. It was actually not a day off. Look at what time it is."
The Nationals will try to regroup in the first game behind John Lannan (4-5, 3.52), who is 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in his last three starts while getting two runs of support in each contest.
The left-hander gave up two runs - both in the fourth inning - and five hits in six innings, but didn't factor in the decision of a 5-2 loss at San Diego on Thursday.
Lannan's only career start against the Cardinals on April 6 resulted in a 3-0 loss as he allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings.
In Game 2, Washington will hand the ball to Tim Redding (6-3, 3.71), who gave up three runs in 5 1-3 innings without getting a decision in Washington's 7-4 win in Arizona on Friday. Redding has not received a decision in his last two starts after giving up just one run in 12 1-3 inning in his previous two, both wins.
Redding is 3-5 with a 5.28 ERA in 12 career appearances, including 11 starts, against the Cardinals.
He will square off against Mike Parisi (0-2, 6.38), who is making his second start after eight relief appearances since being recalled May 4 from Memphis. The first start didn't go well, as he was charged with eight runs in 2 2-3 innings of Saturday's 14-4 loss to Pittsburgh.