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.