Closing Time: Where are you, Michael Wacha?

Scott Pianowski
Closing Time: Where are you, Michael Wacha?

The Cardinals finally had some significant news to share on Michael Wacha, and I understand why it was coated with excitement. He's one of their aces, a major cog in their plans. If Wacha gives the Cardinals anything this year, it's a plus. Heck, just keeping him away from a major surgery would be good news at this point.

But while the big picture for Wacha news might be positive, a fantasy owner in a pennant fight has to think about the small picture, too. Reading between the lines, I think it's time to write off Wacha as a fantasy factor in 2014.

Here's the news item: Wacha played catch on Tuesday, and the club (and pitcher) released some quotes afterwards. Give a look to

Wacha didn't exert himself much, simply playing catch, but it was nevertheless tangible progress for the right-hander, who had not thrown a baseball since mid-June. The MRI he underwent on Monday -- his fourth such exam in a seven-week span -- showed continued healing from a stress reaction in his right shoulder. It was what the Cardinals needed to see in order to start pushing him back toward full activity.

"The arm feels great, and it's good to get some positive results back," Wacha said. "I don't feel anything in the shoulder. It definitely feels strong, and it feels alive. I'm excited about getting good news and getting started back up here."

The timeline and specifics of Wacha's throwing program will be determined as the Cardinals see how his arm responds to each test. Wacha will throw on flat ground for several days, possibly until he has his next MRI, scheduled for Aug. 18. If he has not graduated to throwing off a mound by then, another positive reading should push him to that point.

"As long as there is nothing that shows up [on the MRI] in two weeks ... we'll just keep moving forward," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We'll take it day by day. Right now there is a lot of optimism."

If Wacha can avoid setbacks, the expectation is that he will be ready to pitch for the Cardinals in September. The organization still plans to build him up to carry a starters' workload, though Mozeliak has acknowledged that the Cardinals could use Wacha as a reliever down the stretch if that is the team's need.

Okay, so if Wacha avoids setbacks, he returns in four weeks? He might throw off a mound in mid-August? Why is that cause for a parade? Understand I discuss all this as a Wacha supporter - he was on my preseason Wallet List and he's on a handful of my teams. 

If you can find someone in your league who sees this Wacha item as a positive spin, go ahead and liquidate. Short of that (or a perfect context where you can wait without any opportunity cost), you have my permission to drop him. August games are too important in this roto racket, for most of us, anyway.

Just about all of these Wacha themes also apply to Masahiro Tanaka. If the Yankees aren't 100 percent sure on Tanaka's health, they have no reason to risk their long-term investment. Could he pitch again in 2014? Sure, it's possible. Anything's possible. But don't confuse what is possible with what is likely. I'm not using a DL spot on either of these guys in a non-keeper format. 

When it comes to long-term injuries (and most notably, pitcher injuries), I want to be practical, not a dreamer. The certainty of today is usually underrated; the clarity of tomorrow, grossly overrated. 

Play for today.

• Bryce Harper has been back with the Nats for about five weeks, but things aren't going well. He struck out three times in four at-bats Tuesday, dropping his average to .249. The Washington fans drowned him in boos most of the night. Ah, the Natitutde. 

Harper's been just about roto-useless since he came off the DL:  .214/.319/.306, two homers, zero steals, 35 strikeouts. I thought I was bearish with my Harper price in the full-batter Shuffle Up; I should have gone lower. Even ten bucks looks like too much at this point. If you've been buying or selling Harper this week, share your experience - and your pricing plan - in the comments. 

• Wade Miley is currently the most-dropped pitcher in Yahoo for Wednesday, no surprise there. That 10-spot he surrendered to Kansas City leaves a scar. Listen to the sound on Billy Butler's blast, for crying out loud. (And what kept you, Kirk Gibson? When is enough enough? Is there an alligator pit on the walkway to the mound?) 

For fun, I did a Baseball-Reference query on 10-run pitcher games and they're a little more common than I expected. There's been 34 of these round-ruiners this decade, and some big names show up on the list. James Shields has three of them, for crying out loud. Max Scherzer made the list twice, once this year. Gio Gonzalez did it last season. Johan Santana served one up, too, in the middle of a 2.98/1.18 campaign.

The balls roll funny for everybody, kid. And sometimes the curveballs don't spin at all. Nonetheless, I'll sign off on your Miley kick to the curb, even if it's a therapeutic drop with no corresponding add. You love the therapeutic drop. 

• It's been a crummy year for the Rangers in 500 different ways, but they'll always have Tuesday's 16-0 win at Chicago. Chime in if you got something from this game. Choo homers! Arencibia homers!  Chirinos homers twice! (Alex Rios scores a run, drives in a run! Look at those Rangers go.)

Adam Dunn pitched the ninth inning, a special treat. I love it when position players do this. He allowed three baserunners, one run, threw 22 pitches - not bad. Maybe Robin Ventura will add him to his double secret probation closer-by-committee.

• There's no point in making Javier Baez the lead in this column. He was Monday's story and Tuesday's story; you either got him or you didn't. We talked about him, we ranked him. The horse left the barn, either way. He's long gone in any competitve pool. 

Baez's debut at Colorado wasn't much to write about through five at-bats - three strikeouts, one ball hit hard - but the game went into extra innings and the rookie wound up playing the hero. Impressive, wouldn't you say? Opposite-field pop, and nothing cheap about it (thin air to the side). 

No one's beating the Cubs in 2017, man.