ST. LOUIS — As it turns out, Jake Westbrook has been pitching with stiffness in his back, general manager John Mozeliak said Thursday before the Cardinals played host to the Braves.
The veteran right-hander has not yet been ruled out of his next scheduled start, which would come Monday against the Reds if he stays on turn.
“Right now, everything is the same,” manager Mike Matheny said about the rotation plans. When asked later if Westbrook would make his next start, he said a decision had not been made. “Too far ahead,” he said.
Added Mozeliak, “Right now, we’re trying to determine the health status of everyone and any decisions we make, that we’re putting the best guys out there.”
Michael Wacha, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez are the candidates to start Monday if Westbrook doesn’t, Mozeliak said. The GM said he does not expect to trade for rotation help.
“Trying to get help from the outside right now is going to be difficult for multiple reasons,” he said. “Right now, this team is going to have to find a way to do it from within.”
Mozeliak said not many players have even been put through waivers and the Cardinals have had little interest in any who have cleared waivers. “Then, of course, the ask (what other teams would want in a trade) I imagine would be pretty steep,” he said.
Westbrook, who has allowed 24 earned runs in his past four starts, is not the only Cardinals pitcher trying to work at less than 100 percent. Closer Edward Mujica said he continues to deal with tightness is his upper back and neck, though he said he is fine once he has warmed up.
Mujica was given time off last weekend when the Cardinals were at Wrigley Field, a result of having worked three two-inning outings in five days on the team’s previous homestand. He has been undergoing regular massage and ice treatments.
“From a pure medical standpoint, he is still cleared to pitch,” Mozeliak said. “Everybody has aches and pains or some discomfort from time to time, but I don’t think it’s preventing him from pitching.”
Matheny, who does not like to address his relievers’ availability before a game, said only, “We’re keeping a close eye on it. He’s not where he wants to be, where we’d like him to be. We just have to deal with it.”
Molina plays on
Mozeliak admitted “we’ve deviated from” the plan to rest catcher Yadier Molina, who caught six of seven games since coming off the disabled list because of a sore knee. Molina was not in the lineup for the opener of the Braves’ series.
The veteran catcher and MVP candidate will continue to have a large say in deciding whether he plays.
“Not everybody gets that opportunity to weigh in like that,” Mozeliak said. “Having said that, the ones you allow to have some say, you have to really have to have a lot of trust and believe they are going to give you the right answer.”
Added the GM, “He knows his body better than anyone. More importantly, you’re down the stretch of a season like we are now, guys want to be out there. In his case, you gotta balance being smart and trying to win. That’s always tough.”
Top prospect Oscar Taveras underwent right ankle surgery Wednesday and, said Mozeliak, had “a little bit of cartilage cleanup as well as tightening of the ligament.”
Taveras is expected to remain in a boot for eight weeks before he can begin “robust” physical therapy. Mozeliak said Taveras is not expected to play any winter ball but should be ready for spring training. You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.