Posted on June 21, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
In what has become a recurring theme this season, the St. Louis Cardinals have placed another pitcher on the DL. Michael Wacha is the latest to hit the injured list. The Cardinals placed Wacha on the 10-day DL Thursday because of a strained oblique. The move comes one day after Wacha was pulled from his start against the Phillies after just 3.2 innings. St. Louis has recalled John Gant to take Wacha’s spot on the roster.
Wacha was pulled during Wednesday’s start after the Cardinals noticed a drop in his velocity. It may also be worth nothing that Wacha’s previous start was his worst of the season. Last Friday against the Cubs, Wacha allowed nine runs over 4-plus innings on seven hits, including three home runs. However, the team didn’t notice anything was amiss until the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game.
“You could see his last few pitches were a little sloppy,” said Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux. “He’s been our horse, our bell cow. Oblique strains are not good.”
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Prior to his disastrous outing against the Cubs and Wednesday’s injury-shortened start, Wacha was arguably the team’s best starting pitcher. Prior to the game against the Cubs, Wacha’s ERA was 2.47. It has since ballooned to 3.20, which isn’t bad 15 starts into the season. Wacha also leads the Cardinals with eight wins and has helped to anchor the St. Louis rotation amidst injuries to other pitchers.
The Cardinals are already having to survive without Alex Reyes and Adam Wainwright. Reyes had season-ending surgery earlier this month, while Wainwright is questionable to return this season as well. Ace Carlos Martinez also hasn’t been his usual dominating self since returning from his latest stint on the DL. With Wacha now on the DL, the Cardinals are once again scrambling to fill out their starting rotation.
It’s possible the Cardinals will plug Gant into the rotation if they think Wacha will be able to return soon. Gant has been a viable big league pitcher and has posted a 1.65 ERA in eight starts at triple-A this year. Prospects Daniel Poncedeleon and Dakota Hudson are also both candidates to join the St. Louis rotation as well. Like Gant, both are having excellent seasons at triple-A, although neither has made their big league debut. Of course, all three figure to be a drop-off from what they get from Wacha when he’s at his best.
At the moment, there’s no timeline for Wacha’s return. Oblique injuries are notoriously tricky, especially for a pitcher like Wacha who has never experienced one before. That being said, the Cardinals can’t afford to be without him for long. St. Louis has managed to hang around in the NL Central amidst all their injuries. They are very much in the playoff hunt, just one game back in the wild-card race. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the Cardinals to keep up every time another injury pops up. In short, the Cardinals need Wacha back on the mound as soon as possible.