ST. LOUIS — It’s not like spring training and it’s not like rehab. Mike Matheny explained Tuesday Michael Wacha’s schedule leading back to active duty is a new path, and the Cardinals are not going to take it any faster than they have to.
“We’re not in that rush. We’ve got time and we’re going to take it. We’ll be there soon and just like everybody else I’d like to see Michael out there on the mound, I’d like to see him starting. But we’re going to make sure with this kid,” the manager said. “Every day that we have to get him back out there, to play catch after he gets work, or to have him go and do some testing in the trainer’s room, that’s what we’ve got.”
After being skipped for his start Sunday, questions arose about Wacha’s health and his role - or possible lack of one- in the Cardinals’ postseason plans. At that time, Matheny was clear the skipped start should not be viewed as a shutdown, and wouldn’t elaborate on what it meant for October.
The issue was fastball command, and both the Cardinal coaching staff and the 23-year-old starter felt things weren’t looking like normal.
“The best thing to do, especially when we have a young pitcher like this, if something doesn't look right we pause," Matheny said Friday.
A bullpen was scheduled for Wacha Sunday and he reportedly felt much better about his stuff after that session.
Still, there were no clear answers to the question of his return date or a forecast on where he fits if the Cardinals remain on the path to postseason ball. General Manager John Mozeliak said Wacha will pitch another side session Wednesday and will once again be evaluated. There is no word of any recurrence of symptoms in his shoulder, but the Cardinals are committed to taking very calculated steps in the next few weeks.
Matheny explained the club doesn’t feel any pressure to make an immediate decision, saying there’s nothing forcing their hand to nail down a concrete commitment on Wacha’s role going forward. With no place in the minors remaining for him to get work, the schedule will be dictated by how both he and the staff feels he’s progressing.
Laying out the options, the Cardinal manager did offer a bit of optimism.
“He starts and that would be soon, he starts later, he relieves soon, he relieves later or he doesn’t pitch at all,” Matheny said. “Things are all going in a direction- where he’s feeling better- to where he would be pitching sooner than later.”
Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller are the starters for the final turn against the Brewers, and a rested Lackey is the likely candidate for Friday’s opener with Cincinnati, though Matheny pegged his next appearance only as “later in the week.”
1) Matt Carpenter 3B
2) Jon Jay RF
3) Matt Holliday LF
4) Matt Adams 1B
5) Jhonny Peralta SS
6) Yadier Molina C
7) Kolten Wong 2B
8) Peter Boujos CF
9) Lance Lynn P