What injury? Michael Wacha is healthy and dominating for the Cardinals

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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.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.