ST. LOUIS — As Mike Matheny sat down for his daily media scrum Wednesday afternoon, Michael Wacha had just finished a throwing session in the Cardinals’ bullpen.
When Matheny said he would be laying out the rotation’s plans for the weekend after he checked "to see how things went out there," the inference was obvious to anyone who had watched Wacha’s bullpen session: The young right-hander would be making another start this season.
Matheny indeed made the plan official a few minutes later by announcing that Wacha will start Saturday against the Reds. The outing will come 11 days after Wacha gave up six runs in four innings at Cincinnati, a performance that led the Cardinals to giving him a break in his comeback from a shoulder reaction.
Wacha has shown enough in a few bullpen sessions since for the club to give him his third start of the month after he was shut down on June 17. During the team-imposed break, Wacha has gained confidence in his command and more comfort with his changeup.
Matheny repeated that Wacha had not been bypassed because of any concern over his right arm. "It was about taking a break, trying to get it right," Matheny said. "It’s not building up arm strength. Something doesn’t look right. We need to take a break."
While the 23-year-old right-hander doesn’t figure to throw 120 pitches, Matheny said Wacha’s pitch count will hinge on how he’s pitching more than the arbitrary limits he worked with in his first two comeback starts. In his last start, Wacha threw 70 pitches, which was right at his limit after he threw 50 in his first start.
"It could be more (than 70) depending on how he’s throwing," Matheny said. "I don’t think we’re as concerned about that as we have been. We’ll have a number in mind but if he looks good, we’ll stretch him.
"If he doesn’t, you’re not necessarily going to push it to a number. We have to win a game."
The start will be Wacha’s 18th of the season, fourth against the Reds. He went 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 16 2/3 innings in the first three.