Wacha 'confident' he can rebound in Boston

November 27th, 2021

BOSTON -- No longer the young gun who fired a gem at Fenway Park to lead the Cardinals to victory in Game 2 of the 2013 World Series, 30-year-old righty signed with the Red Sox on Saturday, hoping that Boston will be the spot where he gets his once promising career back on track.

Wacha is coming off a so-so season with Tampa Bay, in which he went 3-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 29 games (23 of starts).

That left Wacha available for the Red Sox at a modest contract of one year at $7 million.

It is a no-strings-attached type of deal in which Wacha will strive for a rebound while the Red Sox can reap the benefits.

Wacha believes that ’21 was a good foundational year during which he was able to at last pitch with good health again and start to get rid of some of the mechanical flaws that he'd developed.

“I'm extremely confident,” Wacha said during a Zoom call on Saturday. “I feel like, last year, I just had some ups and downs. Felt like it clicked there for a little bit and then things wouldn't really go the way I'd planned. But towards the end of the season, I felt like the ball was coming out and my repertoire and ... my approach on the mound was where I needed to be to move forward.

“I'm very confident in myself and my work ethic and my competitiveness, to go out there, compete and get the job done. I'm looking forward to getting back to that role where I'm out there dominant and getting some good wins for this club.”

With a rotation that will be fronted by Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale and Nick Pivetta, the Red Sox will be looking for stability from Wacha more than dominance.

Eduardo Rodriguez signed with the Tigers earlier this month, taking a dependable innings-eater with experience away from the Red Sox.

To do his part, Wacha will need to be healthy. Over the years, he has had ailments to the following body parts: Right hamstring, right shoulder, left knee and left oblique.

“Last year was probably the best my shoulder and elbow felt in my whole career,” said Wacha. “I feel like I'm in a great spot right now with my health and where it's at.”

In 2015, Wacha proved what he can be when he puts it all together, going 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA.

As recently as 2018, Wacha went 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA but his season was limited to 15 starts due to his left oblique woes.

After struggling in his final season with the Cardinals in 2019, Wacha signed with the Mets as a free agent, and nothing went well for him during the ’20 season (a 6.62 ERA in eight appearances) that was abbreviated to 60 games due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I would say 2020 wasn't a great year with the shutdown and getting back into it, I wouldn't say I ever got back to where I was in that Spring Training,” Wacha said. “I felt like my velo ticked up this year, [which] was a good sign with my arm strength and how my body was moving. And I felt like the changeup was as nasty as it's been in my whole career, and so I feel like a new man out there. I felt really good this this past year and so looking forward to keep moving forward with it.”

Pitching for the Rays, under the tutelage of renowned pitching coach Kyle Snyder, could have been a positive that will help Wacha as he embarks on his next chapter in Boston.

The first thing Wacha will do is try to leave behind no doubt in Spring Training that he should be part of the Red Sox’s rotation.

“Oh, I 100 percent feel like that. I feel like any spot, every year that I start up in Spring Training, I'm always trying to earn that spot and prove to people that I belong in that situation,” Wacha said. “This is no different than any other year where I'm coming in and I'm putting in the work in the offseason and going out there and competing my tail off and trying to get people out, put up good numbers and get some wins for this club.”

And this time, Wacha will have the rabid fans of Fenway Park at his back instead of in his face. And that ring the Red Sox took away from him when he lost Game 6 of the 2013 World Series -- the one that clinched the series for Boston -- is one he can now try to earn for his new team.

“I'll tell you what, some of the most electric atmospheres I've ever pitched in [were] at Fenway Park,” Wacha said. “You mentioned the 2013 World Series where it was bananas out there. It was 30,000-40,000 fans and they are just screaming at the top of their lungs and creating that atmosphere that you love playing in. It's going to be a lot more fun whenever they're cheering you on and they're on my side.”