JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) – All spring, Michael Wacha seemed to struggle to regain the form that made him such a dominant pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals over the past two years. Wednesday, all that crystallized into place as he dominated the Miami Marlins in the Cards 3-0 win.
“Yeah, I felt good. I had command of my pitches and got some early outs. I kept a low pitch count and the defense played well behind me,” he said after his five innings of work.
On the day, he surrendered two scratch hits, fanned two and walked one, facing just 18 hitters in five innings. He recorded five outs on ground balls, testament to his ability to keep the ball low in the zone.
Cards manager Mike Matheny was happy for the 24-year-old who emerged as a front end of the rotation pitcher last year, saying that all he needed was a minor adjustment. “It was a timing adjustment,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a matter of subtraction rather than addition (to a pitcher’s motion). That’s what it was. He just didn’t have the feel and to have him pull it all together on his last day here, that was perfect timing.”
The Cards leave the Jupiter complex for a final spring training game Thursday against the New York Yankees and then travel to Pittsburgh to open the season. Wacha is an essential piece of the Cardinals’ rotation and his struggles this spring (5.68 ERA, 23 hits in 12.2 innings) was of serious concern. All that is apparently behind him now.
Wacha said he was searching for repeatable mechanics. Wednesday, he kept his motion simple and under control. “Everything was on point.” He also said that being able to find certain markers or keystones as Adam Wainwright called them – a sort of pitcher’s checklist – is essential to maintaining the rhythm he had today. “I have to stay the course. I don’t have it all figured out yet but (today I was) calm and keep myself under control.” He said his early struggles were not frustrating because he was “aware of the process of getting into a routine.”
Matheny was asked if Wacha’s ability to self-correct and to avoid frustration as he continued to search for his mechanics was a sign of maturity. The skipper declined to address the maturation question, instead saying it was more of the ability to figure out how to get out hitters even if he doesn’t have his best stuff.
Wacha was 17-7 last year, with a 3.21 ERA and is 26-14 since he joined the club in 2013. He missed most of 2014 with a shoulder injury.