Cardinals’ Wacha not concerned about shoulder
After undergoing yet another MRI exam on top of countless X-rays and CT scans, Michael Wacha joked that if there were many more medical tests in his immediate future his body might start to glow.
The right-hander, a top-of-the-rotation talent when healthy, is the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest offseason question mark on the pitching staff because of unknowns that come with an unusual injury called a stress reaction.
He’s not the only one, with ace Adam Wainwright coming off what the team terms minor elbow surgery and lefty Jaime Garcia iffy coming off unproven thoracic outlet surgery to relieve nerve compression.
For now, the NL Central champions project confidence there’s more than enough pitching to make another run to the postseason.
General manager John Mozeliak and team chairman Bill DeWitt both said at the team’s Winter Warm-Up fan festival this weekend that they’re not in the market for a high-dollar addition such as Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels.
”No. A lot’s been written about that, though, huh?” Mozeliak said. ”A lot of rumors, a lot of speculation. Obviously, we have been an organization that tends to be opportunistic if something should arise.
”At this point, no, we’re not actively shopping.”
Wainwright, a 20-game winner for the second time, was so sore at the end of last season and the elbow so overworked, his wife had to help him open jars of food.
”My masculinity took a hit at the end of the year,” Wainwright said. ”I can open jars now, though. You want me to?”
Wainwright also noted proudly that he began playing catch this winter on the ”exact same day.”
”So, I’m on schedule and until I hear otherwise I’m just going to proceed as I normally would,” Wainwright said.
The Cardinals are also minus a starter from last season with Shelby Miller traded to Atlanta to acquire outfielder Jason Heyward, a move necessitated by the death of top prospect Oscar Taveras. But they believe there’s plenty of depth behind a rotation of Wainwright, Wacha, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Carlos Martinez.
Lefty Marco Gonzales followed Wacha making the jump from first-round draft pick to the rotation in one year, and Tyler Lyons also has starting experience.
After signing autographs to benefit the team’s charitable foundation, Cardinal Care, the 23-year-old Wacha said he’d been asked about his status ”just a couple million times.”
Wacha is optimistic he’ll be able to handle a heavy innings load next season without changing anything mechanically.
”Everything’s been feeling good this offseason with my workouts, my training, my throwing program,” Wacha said. ”It’s an exciting time for sure, feeling good and strong and excited about spring training coming up.”
Wacha didn’t pitch much after being sidelined in mid-June and was 5-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 19 starts. He made four starts in September, only once lasting five innings, and in his lone postseason appearance surrendered the game-winning homer in the NL championship series to the Giants.
”I wanted to be out there in that situation,” Wacha said. ”As a competitor, that’s when you want to be out there, when the game’s on the line and everyone’s depending on you.
”Everything felt good, the arm felt strong. Just made a bad pitch.”
As a rookie in 2013, he was 4-0 against the Pirates and Dodgers, leading the Cardinals to the World Series. This offseason, it took ”a little while, for sure” to get over that last pitch.
”Baseball’s a game of forgetting. Usually you’ve got a game the next day,” Wacha said. ”It just kind of gives you a little bit more motivation.”
Mozeliak said ”the feedback’s been extraordinarily positive” about Garcia. One rib was removed during the procedure last summer.
The surgery wasn’t a success for former Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who was forced to retire, but Garcia is several years younger.
”I don’t want to make of it,” the general manager said. ”I don’t want to put too much pressure on him or on the club.”