Michael Wacha burst onto the scene in 2013, acting as a driving force for the Cardinals in their quest for a 12th World Series Championship.
The Cardinals fell to the Red Sox that year, but if there was a silver lining amid a dreadful World Series loss, it was Wacha. He was primed for a promising career, perhaps even taking over as the ace of the staff following Adam Wainwright.
Then, 2016 happened.
Nagging injuries would derail his third full season in the majors as he saw his ERA swell above 5.00 with opposing batters hitting nearly .300. A pesky shoulder injury seemed so troublesome, many wondered if Wacha could return to form. But after Alex Reyes got hurt, the Cardinals needed Wacha to return to form.
A stellar spring landed him a rotation spot contingent upon his health and performance.
So far, so good.
Through three games to start the season, the 25-year-old has gone at least six innings or further, holding opponents to a .235 average, notching two victories with an ERA of 2.41. He has been in complete control, not allowing more than two walks in a start. His velocity has shown no signs of present injury, consistently reaching the mid 90’s. At his best, Wacha commands each at-bat keeping hitters off balance, often leaving opponents desperately waving at the changeup or frozen by the cutter. When each weapon in his arsenal are firing accordingly, the opposition rarely has a chance to put together a rally.
This was the Wacha that won NLCS MVP honors in 2013, and this is the Wacha the Cardinals need in 2017.
Aside from Carlos Martinez, the rotation was full of question marks entering this season. Wainwright’s 2016 campaign was a shock to the norm, newcomer Mike Leake left much to be desired and Lance Lynn was coming off of Tommy John surgery.
Certainly, a smooth start from Wacha would have eased the minds of many. To this point, he’s been sailing.
However, three words still hang over his head like a storm cloud over Busch Stadium: It’s still early. Those three words are the anthem to begin each and every season for starts good and bad. A few solid starts in April can quickly be forgotten if the months ahead are accompanied by anything other than wins.
But for now, Wacha can wallow in his early season success as long as it continues. Come October, these starts will either serve as a distant, fond memory or the start of something great.
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