Posted on August 9, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The St. Louis Cardinals have placed starting pitcher Michael Wacha on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation. The move comes one day after Wacha allowed four runs in five innings of work against the Cincinnati Reds, a game St. Louis came back to win after scoring five runs in the 9th inning to get Wacha off the hook. The Cardinals have replaced him on the roster with right-handed pitcher Alex Reyes, the team’s top prospect.
Wacha claimed after Monday’s start that he felt good, indicating he was healthy. However, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny had a different take on the 25-year old’s health status. “Every day we check him out and hope that’s always the case,” Matheny explained. “Right now, he’s trying to feel through some things. We’ll just keep our eyes open.”
It’s been an usual season for Wacha, who has been up and down for much of the year. Opposing hitters batted just .236 against him last season, but this year that number has jumped to .276, in addition to his ERA being more than a full point higher than it was 2015. This is the first time Wacha will see the DL since 2014, and the Cardinals have not commented on how much time he’s expected to miss.
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Meanwhile, the promotion of Reyes will bring great excitement to St. Louis, as he is the club’s top prospect and the 9th ranked prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Despite being born in New Jersey, Reyes moved to the Dominican Republic when he was young in order to avoid the MLB draft, allowing him to sign with a major league team sooner and receive a higher signing bonus. Reyes, who will turn 22 at the end of August, missed the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for marijuana.
Since his return from that suspension, Reyes has made 14 starts in triple-A, posting a modest 4.96 ERA but striking out 93 in 65.1 innings of work. He also made a strong impression on baseball fans at this year’s Future’s Game, striking out four in 1.2 scoreless innings and lighting up the radar gun. Reyes generally throws his fastball in the mid 90s, but has been known to hit triple digits. His curveball is also considered a plus pitch, but struggles with his control have held him back.
The Cardinals have told Reyes that he will be pitching out of the bullpen for the time being, which is something he’s never done but a tactic the team has used with many of its young pitchers early in their career, including Wacha. Whether Reyes is in the majors to stay remains uncertain, as the Cardinals have announced that Luke Weaver, the team’s second rated prospect, will take Wacha’s spot in the rotation this weekend against the Chicago Cubs.
Weaver has moved quickly through the minors since being a first round pick in 2014. He threw six shutout innings in his triple-A debut Monday night after 12 dominant starts at double-A. He does not have the ceiling of Reyes, but he’s more polished and appears to be more ready than Reyes to start a game in the majors.
With Wacha out indefinitely, the Cardinals are going to need young pitchers like Reyes and Weaver to step up and contribute down the stretch. St. Louis is currently tied for the second wild card spot with the Miami Marlins, and so there is little margin for error if the Cardinals expect to make the playoffs.