My how fast things can change in a game that some fans criticize for it’s slow pace. Just over a month ago, I wrote an article on how Luke Weaver logging innings in Memphis wasn’t a bad thing. Since my last article, Weaver has proven that his hot start was more than just a hot start.
Weaver has continued to dominate AAA hitters, and won the Pacific Coast League’s Player of the Month award for May. For future reference, posting a 5-1 record in 6 starts with a 2.19 ERA, 37/6 K/BB ratio, and a .230 AVG against is a good way to put yourself in contention for that award. It’s also a good way to get a fan base to get impatient, and throughout Cardinals Nation many believe the time is now to him up.
With Michael Wacha’s struggles to get past the 5th inning (only 1 start lasted longer since May 19th), Adam Wainwright’s struggles (again), and the recent disclosure by Manager Mike Matheny that Tyler Lyons has not been able to run all year (knee), isn’t it time to recall Luke Weaver?
If Weaver had not left his June 11th start against Nashville after 2 1/3 IP due to a “back issue”, then the Cardinals most likely would have recalled him by now. But Weaver did leave that Sunday start and hasn’t pitched since then. The Cardinals have stated that the injury is not serious and he is starting tonight for Memphis at Omaha. If he makes it through injury free, GM John Mozeliak is going to have some tough decisions to make moving forward.
Many writers that cover the Cardinals (and fans) have made the suggestion that Michael Wacha should be moved to the bullpen or demoted to AAA to open a spot in the rotation for Luke Weaver. I don’t think that it’s just that simple of an action to do. Is Wacha healthy? Is his right shoulder acting up again? I think it’s safe to presume that with the firepower available in Memphis that if Wacha was injured he would be on the DL.
So that leaves the Cardinals with three options: continue to let Wacha pitch every 5th day, move him to the bullpen, or demote him (similar to the Grichuk situation).
- St. Louis has tried to let Wacha pitch out of his issues but that doesn’t appear to be working. If you can’t get through 5 innings as a starter, then there’s an issue. The only start that Wacha has gotten past the 5th inning since May 19th was his June 9th start against the Phillies and let’s be honest, that’s nothing to write home about.
- So clearly you move him to bullpen right? That might not be the best move for a pitcher with shoulder issues. The wear and tear on a relievers’ shoulder, especially one that has to get warm more than once or on multiple days doesn’t seem to be worth the risk either right? The Cardinals appear to not believe that approach is worth the risk and continue to have Tyler Lyons available for multiple innings whenever Wacha pitches. That approach can work in the short term, but is it really a viable option for the long term? Probably not. The rest of the bullpen could become even more stressed rather easily and not to mention the effect on the position players that are already operating on a short bench.
- Demote Wacha to the minor leagues, ala Randal Grichuk.
Option three seems like the most likely option in my opinion. If Luke Weaver makes it through tonight’s start healthy, then the move needs to be made. Most likely another pitcher (Gonzales, Gant, Mayers) will get called up for a few games to give the bullpen an additional arm or even a spot start. Some adjustments to the rotation will need to be made in regards to the order of the rotation, so the possibility of another pitcher getting recalled before Weaver would be very likely. Currently, Weaver would be on track to make his next start on Wednesday against Arizona if recalled. Mike Mayers appears to fall closest in line with Wacha’s next projected start against the Reds on Monday.
The biggest question though is not if Weaver will be recalled but when? After only going 3 2/3 IP tonight against Omaha, it’s highly unlikely that Weaver will get the call in the next week. Weaver looked good in his return, but it is concerning that he was removed after 2 outs in the 4th. Especially since his final batter faced was a strikeout. Hopefully this move was pitch count related and not an aggravation of his previous back injury. He was removed after 75 pitches, so all signs at this point appear to be a strict pitch limit.
John Mozeliak may decide to give Wacha one more turn through the rotation against the Reds on Monday, but if his results do not drastically improve then some kind of move must be made. It would be a shame to ruin such a great opportunity to capitalize on the poor play early on by the Cubs and Pirates, right? Oh wait, the Cardinals have already done that this season. That doesn’t have to continue though, and Luke “Dream” Weaver can be part of the solution to the Cardinals early season woes. Whether that is this month or post All-Star break remains to be seen.