Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Control Issues Have Been Costly for Wacha

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Control Issues Have Been Costly for Wacha

Article excerpt

ATLANTA * Other than the obvious concern for his long-term health, a chief reason why the Cardinals wanted to monitor and reduce Michael Wacha's workload during the season was to be sure they had their young starter crisp and ready for October.

It will have to be better than his September.

Wacha had a blunt assessment Wednesday afternoon after he failed to reach the fifth inning of the first game of the doubleheader and took a loss to the Pirates. The righthander walked four, allowed six earned runs, and for the fourth time in the month limited his own innings to five or less with his performance.

"It's not what the team needed," Wacha said. "I don't think the workload has much to do with it. The body still feels good. The arm still feels good. I haven't been making pitches the way I need to the last month. I've got to figure something out and start competing a lot better out there."

Wacha likely will have to do that in side sessions as he does not have another start scheduled for this season. The righthander finished the year with a 17-7 record, the most wins by a Cardinals starter younger than 25 since 1989, when Joe Magrane had 18. The 24- year-old Wacha pitched 181 1/3 innings, right around the 180 target the Cardinals had prescribed for him entering the season. He received an extended rest between starts entering the month, and then saw his ERA bloat from 2.69 on Aug. 28 to 3.38 after Wednesday's start.

His walks spiked. He allowed more home runs in his final five starts (seven) than he did in his first 15 (six). And he averaged less than five innings an outing in September.

"The walks are there but there were times when he walked out there and was just fighting the ability to control the strike zone," manager Mike Matheny said. "Usually goes hand in hand. I liked his stuff. Really did. I'm absolutely ready (then) to watch him deep into that game."

When Wacha returned from his extended break, the timing of his delivery was off and he felt his fastball command was straying. Without the fastball, his changeup the pitch that helped make him the National League championship series MVP in 2013 is less effective. Francisco Cervelli crushed a changeup for the grand slam that broke a 1-1 tie Wednesday afternoon and sent the Pirates to their 8-2 victory against Wacha. The Cardinals have studied Wacha's starts and between-start works for signs of fatigue or any hint that he was having the same physical issue that interrupted last season.

Matheny described how last season he saw a righthander who was unable to snap pitches and instead was caught pushing them. Wacha lost the sharp angle that he has on the strike zone, and his pitches all flattened out. That was a sign of a physical issue, Matheny explained, and the Cardinals found a stress reaction in his right shoulder. This past month, the Cardinals haven't seen a dip in his velocity. …

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