(BaseballStL) -- In less than one year, Michael Wacha has pitched at the college, Rookie, Class A-Advanced, Double-A, and Triple-A levels. Thursday will mark his first start in his sixth, and highest level, league for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The quick ride to the majors started last June when the Cardinals drafted 21-year-old right hander with the 19th overall pick out of Texas A&M. After blazing through the minor league level, Wacha will find himself on the mound in St. Louis for the first time making his big league debut.
The mounting injuries to the pitching staff coupled with high praise from everyone in the organization has made the decision to bring Wacha up happen sooner than most expected. That’s what a 4-0 record with a 2.05 ERA in nine starts at Triple-A will do for a pitcher.
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound prospect follows a trail of rookie pitchers to make their big league debut, including John Gast, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons. With him on the roster, the Cardinals have the youngest active rotation in the league at 25 years old.
It isn’t that the organization didn’t feel Wacha was worthy of a shot at the big league level before calling up the others first, they just wanted more time to develop him.
Thursday he will face Jeremy Guthrie, who has appeared in 220 games (193 starts), and the Kansas City Royals. It could be a lot worse for the rookie, but it’s still major league players in a major league setting.
What should we expect Thursday? Not much if the weather makes the game has an extended delay or rained out. If it’s playable, manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist will give him a simple game plan like they do for all rookie pitchers.
But just because he has been dominant at every level played at doesn’t mean fans should expect complete game shutouts every outing. It’s time to remember that he is 21 years old and all of this is coming at a very high speed.
Wacha now joins a batch of rookies that has already given the banged-up Cardinals a league-high 12 wins this season. Fans will have to wait and see how much higher Wacha can make that total.