St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha Gives Us a Glimpse of Hope.

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Jul 29, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) looks on from the dugout in the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) looks on from the dugout in the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals need Michael Wacha now more than ever, and he’s been impressive so far in spring training.

When Michael Wacha made his debut for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, it didn’t take him long to become their most important pitcher. His strong second half propelled the birds into the postseason, where he pitched marvelously.

The sky seemed the limit for young Wacha, but that rare shoulder injury derailed his follow up season. Of course it got the better of him last season too, opening the door for Alex Reyes.

Much like Wacha, Reyes gave the Cardinals a shot in the arm and at times he looked to be an answered prayer. He almost lifted the Cards to the playoffs himself, but they fell one game short.

Once again, the sky seemed the limit for what a full season of this rookie’s services could bring to the St. Louis Cardinals. Once again, the baseball gods had other plans.

After years of injuries and disappointing starts, Michael Wacha might be the most important pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals once more. Whether or not Wacha is ready for this responsibility remains to be seen, but what little we’ve seen so far this spring has to provide relative hope for Cardinal Nation.

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

Wacha made his third start of the spring on Monday, and this time he pushed himself a little further. The big right-hander had yet to allow a run prior to the game, throwing eight shutout innings over his last three starts. This time, Matheny left Wacha in for five innings, and Wacha responded to the call. Michael allowed two earned runs on three hits while striking out four batters and walking none. His ERA this spring is 1.38.

A successful extended start is a good sign for the Cardinals. It’s been a while since Wacha has strung together a strong streak of good-to-great starts, and it’s something he’s going to need to do in the wake of the Reyes injury. Cards fans can reasonably expect an Ace-like season from Martinez, but there’s no guarantee that this team will have a true number-two slotted behind him.

Adam Wainwright is a name that immediately comes to mind. I certainly wouldn’t put it past Waino to surprise us all and return to something resembling peak form. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I won’t hold my breath either. Adam is on the other end of a troubling list of injuries, and he’s 35-years old. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I don’t see him filling that role.

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Mike Leake appears to be a ways away from ever obtaining true number-two status, and it’s quite possible that he never reaches it. Lance Lynn has a propensity for winning games, and his presence was sorely missed on last year’s staff. I expect him to provide some relief this year, but he’s coming off of Tommy Jon surgery, and a major rehabilitation of his throwing arm. His production, in other words, will be limited.

Who then, can step up and fill the role of the team’s second best pitcher? It appears that burden falls on Wacha’s shoulders (careful now!) yet again. I don’t expect Wacha to be the pitcher he once was. I don’t expect him to carry this team back to the postseason—but he is capable of it.

Next: Some of our predictions for 2017

Allow this spring to fill you with some relative hope, Cardinal Nation. If Michael is going to be the pitcher we need, this is a good first step. Is this the Wacha we can expect to see consistently this season? Let’s hope so. The St. Louis Cardinals are in desperate need of it.

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