More often than not when an injured pitcher bypasses surgery to take the rest-and-rehab route it goes poorly, but–so far, at least–Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha is looking like a major success story.
Wacha missed much of last season with shoulder problems and was left out of St. Louis’ playoff rotation, but he arrived at spring training with a clean bill of health and has looked better than ever through two-thirds of the season.
Thursday night Wacha shut out the Reds for seven innings to improve to 13-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 21 starts. He’s logged 132 innings–which already surpassed last season’s total of 107–with a 112/32 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .224 batting average and .609 OPS.
As for how much more he’ll be allowed to pitch this season, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that “the Cardinals already have recalculated their expectations for Wacha” and “if he continues to pitch without any signs of fatigue they intend to let him without any hint of limits.”
In other words, he’s been so good and avoided any signs of past arm problems that the Cardinals have decided to treat him as if last season’s issues never even happened.
At this time last year the future was very uncertain for Wacha and there was plenty of reason to worry about him for 2014 and beyond, but now he’s back to being a top-of-the-rotation starter at age 23 and the Cardinals have another excellent long-term building block.
Out since mid-June with an ankle injury, Chase Utley has completed a minor-league rehab assignment and the six-time All-Star second baseman will come off the disabled list to rejoin the Phillies’ active roster Friday.
Utley went 6-for-13 (.545) while playing two Double-A games and one Triple-A game, but remains a huge question mark after hitting just .179 in 65 games before the injury.
Utley was an above-average player last season and it’s possible a contending team could talk itself into taking a low-cost flier on him as an August trade pickup, but he’ll obviously need to put together a good stretch of games first to show that he’s not washed up at age 36.
Utley has an option for 2016 that will not vest because of his time missed, so he’s an impending free agent owed around $5 million for the final two months of the season and does have the right to veto any potential trade.
Brutal news for Mets left-hander Jerry Blevins.
Blevins was making enough progress in his recovery from a distal radius fracture in his left arm suffered in April that the Mets were hoping to have him as a bullpen option in September.
Instead he’ll miss the remainder of the season and will require surgery after slipping while stepping off a curb Monday and re-fracturing the same bone.
Blevins tossed five scoreless innings for the Mets prior to the injury and has a 3.53 ERA with 309 strikeouts in 329 career innings as a big leaguer. He was acquired from the Nationals this offseason in exchange for outfielder Matt den Dekker.
New York added to its southpaw reliever depth by getting Eric O’Flaherty from Oakland prior to knowing the severity of the Blevins news, so he’ll join Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin as the Mets’ primary lefties.