Cardinals’ pitching staff offers optimistic outlook in advance of 2015 season

Michael Wacha has reason to be hopeful after results of his latest MRI -- performed Sunday -- came back clean. But he has yet to throw from the mound in 2015.

Jeff Roberson/AP

ST. LOUIS — If the season opened today, the Cardinals would boast a healthy pitching staff. At least, that’s the indication coming from the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up this weekend.

Checklist, please:

Staff ace Adam Wainwright, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his right elbow shortly after the season, has started his throwing program right on schedule

So has right-hander Michael Wacha, who was limited to 19 starts in 2014 because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder. "My arm feels just as strong as it was or stronger," Wacha said Sunday. "I’m real happy with how everything’s feeling."

Ditto lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist, who dealt with a forearm strain and later, muscle tears in his pitching hand. "Everything to me feels healed up," Siegrist said. "It’s been going great. Feel good."

Even the feedback on lefty starter Jaime Garcia, who underwent season-ending thoracic outlet surgery last July, has been "extraordinarily positive," general manager John Mozeliak said Saturday.

For the record, the club’s other pitchers who appeared at the Warm-Up on Sunday — seven total — also said they’re feeling fine and eager to report. That included Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons, Sam Freeman and Seth Maness.    

While the progress reports are encouraging to the club, everyone knows what time of year it is. In the middle of January, pitchers have not even climbed on a mound yet. Their work has been limited to long toss and playing catch.

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Wacha said he figures to throw off a mound sometime in the next couple of weeks. "I imagine everything will be feeling good then as well," he said.

He has reason to be hopeful after results of his latest MRI — performed Sunday — came back clean. Wacha said he hopes that will be the last time he has to succumb to any kind of medical examination for a while after undergoing numerous MRIs, CT scans and testing in the second half of last season.

"I feel like I’ll start glowing now if I don’t stop getting those X-rays," he said. "A lot of radiation."

HONORING TAVERAS

The club’s plans to remember the late Oscar Taveras in the upcoming season include putting a small black patch with the letters "OT" on the left sleeve of the team’s uniforms. There also will be a remembrance placed inside Busch Stadium.

Club chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. also announced that the team will renovate a ballpark in Taveras’ hometown of Sousa in the Dominican Republic and name it Oscar Taveras Field.

"They have an existing ball field, but we really want to renovate it and make it first rate," DeWitt said Sunday. "We’re going to, in conjunction with Cardinals Care, make a sizable investment. We’ll give young kids down there a chance to dream like Oscar did and maybe some day of playing in the big leagues."

DeWitt said the club also will increase its efforts in educating young players about off-the-field behavior, though he did not offer any details.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @StanMcNeal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.