Michael Wacha is becoming the story of the spring, and with pitching like this, it's easy to see why. He struck out five in three innings of work and looked pretty dominant doing so. So much so that someone with a lot of credibility made an interesting claim.
"That guy can pitch in the big leagues right now," according to no less than Yadier Molina, who should have a pretty good grasp of what it takes to pitch in the major leagues. When you've got Yadi on your side, it makes it pretty easy for the speculation to ramp up to another level.
Mike Matheny says Wacha reminds him of Trevor Rosenthal, in that he's making an impression in spring and could be in the big leagues at some point this season. All of this gets you wondering if there are roster gymnastics that could get Wacha on the plane ride to St. Louis at the end of spring training.
As Tony La Russa was fond of saying, never fall in love too early or too late in the spring. Wacha has been incredible, but he's only had two outings against partially major league lineups. I don't discount anything that he's done, but there's still a long way to go. We have to see him struggle and see if he can rebound, because in the less than a year since he's been drafted, he's not had to bounce back from adversity at all.
That said, even if he continues his amazing spring run, I can't see him making the roster. I don't think he beats out Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly or Rosenthal for the fifth spot in the rotation and, while there's a lot of merit to the idea of carrying him in the bullpen for a year as a long man, similar to what they did with Adam Wainwright in 2006, where are you going to put him?
Assuming a seven-man bullpen, which I think is a safe assumption, five of those spots already go to the two lefties Randy Choate and Marc Rzepczynski and the late inning trio of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. That leaves you two spots to play with. You figure that, if he doesn't win a rotation slot, Kelly will get one of those. Is Wacha going to bump Fernando Salas for the last one? I'm not sure Salas's option status but it would seem unlikely to me. So is there a road to get Wacha in one of those red convertibles circling Busch for the home opener? Sure. I just don't think it's a likely road, but the rest of the spring will tell.
Wacha's work overshadowed the fact that the Cards are thumping right now. Matt Adamscontinues to make his case for a bench role, going two for four as Allen Craig continues to nurse that sore shoulder. Carlos Beltran took it to his old team as well, drawing a walk and pounding a two-run double. It was also a big day for Shane Robinson, who took over for Matt Holliday when the subs started coming in and went 2-2 with four runs, three RBI and a HR. That's filling up the box score. Jon Jay and his replacement, Justin Christian, both had two hits and Molina drove in three. All in all, a lot of raking going on at Tradition Field yesterday and it had nothing to do with the grounds crew.
Lance Lynn got his first start of the season and, well, it could have gone a little better. He went two innings, giving up four hits, two runs and a homer. He did strike out three, though, which eased that sting a bit. I got a chance to watch a couple of innings at lunch since the game was on MLB Network and I really didn't recognize Lynn when he took the mound. Without the big beard and the extra weight, he looks like a completely different person. We'll see if the results are the same as last year, though.
One person I wanted to see yesterday and didn't (since he didn't play) was Oscar Taveras. The young phenom got the day off but, as Bernie Miklasz writes, he could be an asset at the big league level. Bernie's exactly right in that the team would give Taveras enough at bats to develop. He points out that if you expect him to come up mid-season, how valuable can 100 AAA at-bats be? It makes so much sense all the way around, but it's not looking like it's an option right now. A strong spring could force the issue, though. Because as great as Robinson has been so far this spring, I'd take Taveras over him in a heartbeat if that was the choice.
Cards get to come home and take on the Marlins again in Jupiter this afternoon. Jake Westbrook makes his first start of the spring, to be followed up by Rosenthal. Hopefully Rosenthal will settle down and have a better outing than he did against the Marlins in the spring opener. That'll definitely be worth monitoring.
Two more days on the Cardinal Approval Ratings and the Colorado Rockies are the team in the barrel for today's Playing Pepper, so come back for that!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball