KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 5: Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on June 5, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) By Ed Zurga
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 31: Starter Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at Busch Stadium on May 31, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) By Dilip Vishwanat
By John Bailey
(BaseballStL) — When Michael Wacha went on the DL with a stress reaction in his shoulder, the severity of the injury and timetable of his recovery were both serious question marks.
Monday, the club will move closer to having answers on both.
The 22-year-old is set for follow MRIs and exams on his shoulder, and in the interim has undergone treatment for the unusual malady.
“I’ve never really heard of an injury like this,” said Wacha Friday. “It’s definitely a new experience for not only myself but our training staff.”
He hasn’t thrown since being moved to the disabled list, and has been doing shoulder exercises in combination with bone-healing ultrasound procedures to aid in recovery. The medical staff also has increased his calcium and Vitamin D intake.
“It definitely feels a lot stronger. It’s not as tight as it was but I think we’ll definitely have some positive results,” he said.
Wacha said there was never a component of pain to the injury, rather it was a lingering tightness pulling at the back of his shoulder where the scapula is located.
When the injury was diagnosed, the chance- however remote- that further injury could occur with exertion prompted an immediate shutdown of all throwing activities for the young starter.
“They said something like it was a low possibility that if I kept throwing it would actually fracture, but they didn’t want to take the risk and I didn’t really feel like taking the risk to keep on throwing through it,” Wacha said.
While little is known about the injury, it’s not unheard of in baseball. Arizona starter Brandon McCarthy has battled the injury and has managed to continue his career inspire of it. With no experience to draw from, Wacha said he reached out to McCarthy to get a picture of what recovery looked like.
“I got his number and gave him a call. He just said that all he needed was just rest,” he said. “I think he said something like 14 days of not throwing and it was basically out of there and he started up his throwing program again.”
It’s important to note that McCarthy suffered an actual stress fracture, while Wacha’s injury was caught earlier. While still serious, the former Aggie’s injury is considered a precursor to something like McCarthy’s. The Cardinals aren’t confident when Wacha will pitch again, but the early detection certainly prevents a lot of complications.
Monday will be a major waypoint on the return route for the big righty. Friday, he appeared in good spirits while talking about what he expects.
“We’ll start comparing those MRIs and those tests to the first tests I took a couple weeks ago,” he said. “I think shutting it down for these couple of weeks will get it out of the way and I’ll be good to go.”
With Jaime Garcia on the DL with shoulder issues as well, the Cardinals likely won’t risk further damaging Wacha with an accelerated return. The All Star break will afford the club some free days off, but Wacha’s precise date of return will probably remain in question for several weeks.