COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals faced a tough decision as Jake Westbrook was activated from the disabled list in time to start the June 14th game against the Miami Marlins. Two young hurlers, Tyler Lyons and Michael Wacha, have pitched well during their debut seasons. The team was faced with the options of sending one of them down or moving one of them to the bullpen and sending out a bullpen arm.
The decision was made and Wacha, whose popularity has been growing steadily since spring training, was optioned to Memphis, the Cardinals' triple-A affiliate.
It was the right move.
The bullpen was not an option
Wacha is being groomed as a future part of the major-league rotation. Placing him in the bullpen for the remainder of this season would result in stunting the young man's development. It has long been said that the focus for Wacha in 2013 is to pitch every five days, since it is the first time in his baseball career that he is being tasked to do so. He will get a regular turn in the Memphis rotation and that is what he needs.
Tyler Lyons has not failed
That is not to say that Wacha has, quite the opposite. Wacha has not pitched horribly since coming to the major leagues, but neither has Lyons. Allowing less than one baserunner per inning and finding a way to average better than six innings a start while yielding less than three runs per outing will make you a popular young arm on a major-league staff. Lyons has proven that he deserves to be here and there was no reason to change that.
Wacha was everything advertised
We were told that Wacha was major-league ready, a presence on the mound, and young. It was the last part that played strongly into the decision to return him to Memphis. He worked into trouble more than once, fought his way out of it, and made the adjustments necessary to avoid further damage. The problem was, when a pitcher fights his way out of trouble, his pitch count soars. It kept Wacha from lasting deep into ballgames and the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals are struggling with their bullpen.
He will continue to develop
Ron "Pop" Warner, the manager at Memphis, and his staff will continue to work with the 21-year old pitcher on keeping his pitch counts low and working more efficiently. He will continue to develop a changeup that fooled more than a few hitters and learn to utilize his breaking pitches more effectively.
Wacha arrived at the major-league level and pitched like the player many fans were clamoring to see. His poise and ability were outstanding, if still a bit raw.
It is scary to think how much better he may be when he returns.
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