The Cardinals pulled right-hander Michael Wacha from their rotation May 24, but they don’t want his demotion to last through the season, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains. Pitching coach Mike Maddux told Goold the change isn’t “permanent,” adding, “He’ll definitely let us know when he’s ready to go back in.”
The relegation of Wacha opened the door for the Cardinals to promote flamethrowing prospect Genesis Cabrera, whose debut in Philadelphia on Wednesday didn’t go that well. The 22-year-old Cabrera gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings, though he did strike out five. Worsening matters, Wacha’s appearance in relief of Cabrera surely ranks among the most awful performances of his career. Pitching for the first time since May 22, Wacha allowed six earned runs on five hits, including three home runs, and three walks in a single inning of work.
In the wake of Wednesday’s nightmare, Wacha owns a 6.51 ERA/6.52 FIP with 8.5 K/9, 6.04 BB/9 and a 24 percent home run-to-fly ball rate over 47 2/3 frames. It’s a shocking fall from grace for someone who looked like a potential front-line starter from his 2013 debut through 2015. However, various injuries have been deleterious to Wacha’s availability and effectiveness in recent seasons. The 27-year-old spent time on the IL earlier this season with a left knee injury and has seen his velocity fall by about a mile per hour on all of his pitches.
As poorly as 2019 has gone for Wacha, St. Louis doesn’t want to “pigeonhole” him into becoming a long reliever, manager Mike Shildt told Goold. Ideally for the Cardinals, Wacha will perform well enough in his newfound role to earn another shot in their disappointing rotation. A return to form is sorely needed for Wacha, who’s due to become a free agent after the season, but his platform year couldn’t be going much worse so far.