Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Wacha ends 1st half strong, looks to build

Cardinals righty notches win with effective 5 2/3 innings in final start before break
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- In many ways, Michael Wacha's success this season was always going to be defined not by how he started the year, but rather in how he finishes it. Such is reality after two interrupted seasons due to shoulder troubles.

Wacha will have the chance to not only finish healthy, but also as a starter, something that wasn't so certain three weeks ago. The winning pitcher in Thursday's 4-3 decision over the Marlins, Wacha finished the first half with a bit of momentum built from three straight solid starts.

View Full Game Coverage

ST. LOUIS -- In many ways, Michael Wacha's success this season was always going to be defined not by how he started the year, but rather in how he finishes it. Such is reality after two interrupted seasons due to shoulder troubles.

Wacha will have the chance to not only finish healthy, but also as a starter, something that wasn't so certain three weeks ago. The winning pitcher in Thursday's 4-3 decision over the Marlins, Wacha finished the first half with a bit of momentum built from three straight solid starts.

View Full Game Coverage

"A lot of people say I'm a first-half type pitcher, but it's all about building off this first half and continuing what I've been doing the past couple starts, which is attacking guys, pitching down in the zone and letting the defense play behind me," Wacha said after his 5 2/3-inning outing. "I just have to build off of that."

Wacha's hold on a rotation spot had become tenuous by mid-June, when he had an 8.86 ERA over a five-start stretch. Manager Mike Matheny acknowledged that the Cardinals were exploring their options with the 26-year-old right-hander. The medical staff performed a series of tests to determine if any shoulder weakness was setting in, and there were discussions about whether a fit in the bullpen could make sense.

But Wacha checked out fine medically, and he pitched the Cards to wins in his final three starts before the All-Star break. Including the two runs he allowed on Thursday, Wacha gave up three runs in 17 2/3 innings. It all put other plans on hold.

"I'm just pitching down in the zone," Wacha said. "Give them that strike one down in the zone, and working the other pitches off of that. It's been working out pretty well, and I'll just keep building off of it."

Wacha has notched a season-best nine strikeouts in each of his past two starts, and after opening the year with 26 walks in 12 starts, he has issued five over his past four appearances. Wacha has also been better able to manage the damage when going through a lineup for the second and third times.

But while this stretch may have stabilized Wacha's spot as a starter, the Cardinals now must determine how best to keep him there. The organization talked before the season about wanting to be conservative with his workload, given that Wacha was coming off a 138-inning, injury-plagued season.

The club built in 11 days of rest during a stretch in May by skipping a start, and the Cards have the opportunity to extend Wacha's downtime again by manipulating the rotation after the All-Star break.

"Those are discussions that we're having, for sure," Matheny acknowledged. "We're going to watch everybody their last time through, see where they are, see what they need."

Video: MIA@STL: Matheny on bullpen, Voit's big day

Wacha insisted that his changed offseason program and in-season regimen has his shoulder feeling strong. The key now is to ensure it stays that way.

"There have been some ups and downs, but the full season is going to be a grind," Wacha said. "It's all about building off this first half and coming back after the All-Star break feeling good and really making a push with this team."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Michael Wacha