MILWAUKEE -- A day after injury forced Michael Wacha from the mound in the fourth inning, subsequent testing confirmed what the Cardinals feared. A MRI revealed a "moderate" strain in Wacha's left oblique, prompting the club to place him on the 10-day disabled list.The move will require Wacha to miss
MILWAUKEE -- A day after injury forced Michael Wacha from the mound in the fourth inning, subsequent testing confirmed what the Cardinals feared. A MRI revealed a "moderate" strain in Wacha's left oblique, prompting the club to place him on the 10-day disabled list.
The move will require Wacha to miss "a few weeks," manager Mike Matheny said, prematurely ending his excellent first half and opening a hole in the Cards' suddenly sputtering rotation. Given the lingering nature of oblique injuries, the Cardinals are preparing to be without him for at least that long. Right-hander John Gant was recalled to replace Wacha on the roster in the short term. He's a candidate to start Monday against the Indians -- Wacha's next turn -- even after throwing two innings in Thursday's 11-3 loss in Milwaukee.
Gant is far from the only arm in the mix. The club is considering promoting No. 3 prospect Dakota Hudson for that start, and possibly a more permanent place in the rotation. Right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon is another option. Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch also mentioned Austin Gomber as a candidate going forward, though Gomber won't be stretched out in time to start Monday.
• Morning Lineup Podcast on Wacha to DL
"We have options," Girsch said.
Of the group, Hudson would be the only one who would need to be added to the 40-man roster, though the Cardinals have some flexibility there with Alex Reyes and Ryan Sherriff not yet on the 60-day DL. Hudson is also by far the most polished prospect.
While Gant and Poncedeleon have both pitched well at Memphis this season, Hudson was in the midst of a particularly sensational run. The 23-year-old paces the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League in wins (9) and ERA (2.13), while also ranking among the league leaders in innings and WHIP (1.33). A sinkerballer with a plus-slider, Hudson has allowed one home run across 80 1/3 innings this season.
Poncedeleon is scheduled to make a "short" appearance Thursday at Memphis, while Hudson would have to bypass his next turn to start Monday. Gant is 1-2 with a 4.39 ERA across eight appearances in the Majors this season, and 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three starts.
Girsch also left open the possibility of going outside the organization. The Cardinals have been averse to exploring the trade market for starting pitching in the past.
"There are lots of moving parts," Girsch said. "Ideally, we would have someone step in, pitch well, grab a hold of that spot and not let go."
However the Cardinals fill his slot, the loss of Wacha comes at an awful time for both the club and pitcher. The bedrock of their club not long ago, Cardinals starters own a 5.60 ERA over the past two weeks. It's been eight games since one completed at least six innings -- St. Louis is 2-6 in those games.
Individually, Wacha appeared on his way to a potential All-Star nod before his oblique tightened Wednesday in Philadelphia, causing the 26-year-old to fight for breath later in the clubhouse. Wacha was working on a career year; he's 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts.
"We need deep starts," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's been the secret to us staying in this as we have."
Around the horn
• Injured shortstop Paul DeJong took what he called "a huge step" in his recovery Thursday, taking live batting practice for the first time since breaking his left hand last month. DeJong took between 20 and 30 swings against a pitching machine after hitting a similar number of balls off a tee. Testing his strength against a "moving ball" was the new part -- DeJong began tee work last week. He hopes to hit on the field against a live arm before the end of this road trip.
"I felt no pain at contact and my bat speed feels really good," DeJong said. "Now it's about seeing pitches."
<p.>• Jose Martinez was back in the lineup after suffering a minor shoulder injury in Wednesday's 4-3 loss in Philadelphia, hitting third and playing first base. Martinez initially feared the injury was much worse; he was in considerable pain after a throw pulled him inside the first-base line, facilitating a collision with Nick Williams. Though Martinez remained in the game and singled in his next at bat, he received treatment after the game then tested his shoulder again Thursday.</p.><p.></p.>
<p.>The first baseman is no stranger to playing through pain; he's endured maladies to his feet, legs and wrist already this year, several after awkward plays to first base. They've affected him little in the batter's box: Martinez entered play hitting .313/.381/.504 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. </p.>
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.