JUPITER, Fla. -- All indications are that Michael Wacha is back to being the pitcher he was two years ago when the Cardinals' right-hander won 17 games in 30 starts before shoulder problems and a stint on the disabled list derailed his season last year.Wacha is having an exceptional Spring
JUPITER, Fla. -- All indications are that Michael Wacha is back to being the pitcher he was two years ago when the Cardinals' right-hander won 17 games in 30 starts before shoulder problems and a stint on the disabled list derailed his season last year.
Wacha is having an exceptional Spring Training so far. He further enhanced his spot in the starting rotation Monday when he had his longest outing of the spring, limiting the Astros to three hits over five solid innings in the Cardinals' 6-3 win at Roger Dean Stadium.
The two runs were the first scored against Wacha in his four Grapefruit League starts this spring, but he's now logged 13 innings and boasts a 1.38 ERA and 11 strikeouts with only three walks.
"It just looks like the healthy Wacha, not the other guy trying to fight through," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Wacha's only blip of the game came in the third inning when the Astros got all three of their hits against him, including a two-run double down the right-field line by Colin Moran. Wacha didn't let it rattle him, however, and he retired the next seven Houston batters he faced to end his day.
"When he has his stuff like he had today," Matheny said, "I mean, I saw a strikeout with his fastball, which was really good, I saw a strikeout with his curveball, saw a strikeout with his changeup, saw a strikeout with his cutter. Those are all good signs. You can tell everything is right."
In an effort to lessen some stress around his shoulder and neck areas, Wacha worked hard during the offseason to tweak his mechanics after he spent an extended stint on the DL from Aug. 9-Sept. 14 last year.
This spring, Wacha said he's been working more on his command, too.
"That's been one of the focuses, is pitching down in the zone with the heater and working the [other] pitches off that," Wacha said. "Just continue to build off that and continue firing strikes and getting the command of the fastball is what I'm trying to do."
He's also been relying more on his curveball as another weapon, "just to have something else that they're thinking about in the back of their mind," he said.
With each successful outing this spring, the memory of a 7-7 record, 5.09 ERA he sported in 2016, not to mention the injury issues, fades into the distance for Wacha, and that has Matheny and the Cardinals smiling.
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Cardinals on Monday.