Will Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha be able to put together full and successful St. Louis Cardinals seasons in the rotation without any limitations from previous injuries?
Lance Lynn is coming off of Tommy-John surgery, and Michael Wacha has dealt with a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder that has cost him time two of the previous three seasons. All are waiting to see how Lynn performs in his season back from surgery, and all are holding their breath and crossing their fingers that Wacha will be able to pitch an entire St. Louis Cardinals season without complications.
Lynn had Tommy-John immediately following the 2015 season, so he’s more than a year removed from surgery. That bodes well for him, as he’s enjoyed the benefit of having a regular offseason to prepare for the 2017 campaign.
Lynn’s been very good so far this spring. In fourteen innings, he’s allowed only two earned runs and walked only two. His delivery looks free and easy, and he’s mixing in all his pitches. The Cardinals sorely missed Lynn in the rotation last season.
Twice in his four seasons in a major league rotation he’s exceeded 200 innings on the mound, and he’s quietly been one of the better starters in the National League during those four years. His best season was in 2014 when he tossed a career-high 203 2/3 innings and posted a career-low 2.74 ERA.
Lynn has been a big-time starter for St. Louis in his young career. This will be a big season for him, as he’s not only returning from injury but also pitching in a contract year.
Wacha has arguably been the most impressive Cardinal on the mound this spring. In five starts, he’s posted a 2.65 ERA and struck out fifteen in seventeen innings pitched. He’s got velocity early this spring, and he’s built up strength in his troublesome shoulder.
For Wacha, the sky is the limit. A first-round pick in 2012, he landed in St. Louis a year later and helped carry the team to a National League Championship. He earned an All-Star appearance in 2015. He’s already enjoyed great success at the major league level, and he’s just 25 years old.
He’s also dealt with frustrating injuries. He missed significant time in 2014 with a stress reaction, and it flared up again last season. This is the type of injury that has the danger to linger and affect a pitcher for years. During the offseason, Wacha focused on strengthening his shoulder so that it wouldn’t become a problem again this season.
If that work pays off and Wacha can stay healthy, it will be a win for St. Louis. However, if he can stay healthy and return to dominant form, the Cardinals will have another top-of-the-rotation caliber starting pitcher.
Much of whether the pitching staff can reach its potential this season hinges on Wacha’s performance. If he comes through, he could help return the rotation to top-10 in the league. Another frustrating year with injury, and his future as a starting pitcher could be in jeopardy.