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Wacha, Ponce de Leon to shift roles for Cards

@anne__rogers
July 14, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Michael Wacha will pitch out of the bullpen for the time being and Daniel Ponce de Leon will take over his rotation spot starting Wednesday against the Pirates. In 16 games this season, Wacha is 5-4 with a 5.54 ERA. He came out of the bullpen for

ST. LOUIS -- Michael Wacha will pitch out of the bullpen for the time being and Daniel Ponce de Leon will take over his rotation spot starting Wednesday against the Pirates.

In 16 games this season, Wacha is 5-4 with a 5.54 ERA. He came out of the bullpen for two of those games, May 29 and June 4, allowing six runs on five hits in one inning in the former and tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the latter. His return to the rotation afterward has been inconsistent. Wacha allowed four runs over 3 1/3 frames during his last start, July 4 in Seattle, before he was replaced by Ponce de Leon.

Just prior to that, Wacha had worked seven innings against the Padres and allowed just two runs.

“Clearly built up beyond anybody else as far as length goes,” manager Mike Shildt said about Wacha’s role in the bullpen. “But I don’t want to hold him in the long-man role, either.”

Rehab roundup

Marcell Ozuna (fractured right middle finger) is still dealing with swelling in his hand and said he hasn’t been able to test his grip strength much. The Cardinals are hoping for a return by end of July, but Ozuna said he wasn’t sure of a timetable.

Jedd Gyorko used the time he is on the injured list with a left calf strain to have minor arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist. But the timetable for the utility infielder’s return might be longer than expected. Shildt said Sunday that Gyorko, who is in St. Louis getting treatment, might not be ready to return until the middle or end of August. The Cardinals will evaluate more in a month, but Shildt didn’t disagree that it might be hard to see Gyorko back before Sept 1.

“Rehab might be a little tough at that point,” Shildt said. “We’ll create some opportunities for him. He’s going to have to go play somewhere and get at-bats, and get on the field and be a baseball player. He’s dealing with the wrist, calf, healing in general.”

One year later

Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of Mike Matheny’s dismissal following an 8-2 Cardinals loss to the Reds and Shildt taking over as interim manager. The Cardinals removed the interim tag on Shildt’s title 45 days later and signed him to three-year contract that runs through 2020.

“I wasn’t aware of [the anniversary], quite honestly,” Shildt said. “I’m just grateful for every day, and grateful for the opportunity not only for this past year, but the previous 15 or so in the organization. Just take it day by day for continual improvement to move this organization forward and get us to where we want to go. I’ve always had that mindset, it just happens to be the manager’s job at the big league level right now. Just very grateful, taking it day by day to get us better.”

Shildt said he was pleased with the past year but knows the Cardinals have a long way to go before all are satisfied. When he stepped into the manager’s role, Shildt wanted to improve on the defense, baserunning and bullpen, and all three have been solid for the Cardinals this year.

“The systems are in a good place for that to be in good shape,” Shildt said. “Clearly, we’ve got to do some more things consistently and better to be in a position that we expect.”

International All-Stars

Three players and one manager represented the Cardinals in the Dominican Summer League All-Star Game on Sunday morning at the Cleveland Academy, where the American League topped the National League, 4-5, in seven innings.

DSL Cardinals Blue manager Fray Peniche was selected to be part of the NL coaching staff.

Diowill Burgos (DSL Cardinals Red) started the game in right field, batted fourth and finished 0-for-1 with one strikeout. Right fielder Gustavo A. Rodriquez (DSL Cardinals Blue) took two walks after pinch hitting for Burgos in the fourth and remaining in right field.

Right-hander Angel Cuenca (DSL Cardinals Red) needed just three pitches to close out the fourth inning.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.