Look, I may not be a medical expert or a certified trainer or anything, but I can still recognize a bad decision from afar. Deep inside the walls of Busch Stadium, Michael Wacha‘s 2014 prospects hang in the balance and within the center of a few people’s thoughts and decision making. Mike Matheny, John Mozeliak, trainers, a medical team and Derek Lilliquist. They will decide this week if Michael Wacha is to push one more time towards making a recovery and pitching this season or if it is time to shut the young man down. The question is an open one because this morning, Wacha threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session. How much longer will the team dangle the notion that the righthander can make a successful comeback inside a month from an odd injury?
The story is well known. Wacha suffered an uncommon injury on June 17th, a stress reaction in his right shoulder. This put him on the disabled list for nearly two months. Wacha got MRI after MRI and each test showed a little improvement. Near the end of August, Wacha was sent to throw for the Springfield minor league team. He then made two starts for the big league club, because why let a healthy arm like Marco Gonzales get meaningful starts in a stretch run when the team has a 60 percent effective Wacha down there? Right…no. Wacha threw a bullpen session on Friday and Matheny told the media that the young man wasn’t going to pitch Sunday. He denied it being a physical issue and just said Wacha doesn’t look right, according to Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post Dispatch. Well, what is right about rushing a 23 year potential staff ace into a September rescue mission? NOTHING is right about that. Nothing at all. It’s stupid. It has been ill-advised from the start.
When healthy, Wacha has proven to be tough as nails on a mound. A game changing arm. He came on late in 2013 and provided a performance that still lingers in fans’ minds. It’s hard to not like what the young man can do out there. However, health is a fickle thing and sometimes managers, general managers and others pass that notion up a little in order to see what they have for the near future. Instead of doing that, the Cards need to think about the long term value of Michael Wacha and shut the kid down. It was a fairy tale voyage for the kid to make it back this year, after those false start MRI’s where there wasn’t enough healing to start rehab. In my mind, if the MRI in early August comes back clean and he is set loose then, there was a bigger chance of a full recovery. Instead, he was given the green light two weeks later. It’s simply not possible.
The Cards have pitching. Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales can handle starts this month before the 3-4 man playoff rotation starts. For better or worse, the Cards will hope the month of October channels a stronger John Lackey(currently dealing with dead arm issues himself). The team can hope that the newly reformed pitching arsenal of Shelby Miller will stick for a while. Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are proven 2014 horses. All the Cards need is a 5th arm to make 2-3 more starts. Gonzales can handle that against less than stellar competition.
Wacha is too important to rush. He’s a precious commodity that will hopefully shine here for a long time. The stress reaction he suffered can lead to a stress fracture. Just look at Brandon McCarthy. Then again, the uncommonness of this injury can lead to different outcomes as well. With the proper rest and rehab, Michael Wacha may come back stronger than ever in 2015.
In order to do that, the Cardinals must stop the 2014 mission and think about the mission beyond this winter. Wacha’s long term value is 100 times stronger than his short term worth.
Thanks for reading,
For more insight into the Michael Wacha rehab saga, please read Ben Humphrey’s article over at Viva El Birdos.