Just as they were to begin a difficult 10-game road trip to Colorado, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the St. Louis Cardinals were dealt discouraging news Sunday.
Right-hander Michael Wacha (stress reaction in shoulder) and left-hander Jaime Garcia (reaggravated shoulder) will be placed on the disabled list and could miss a significant amount of time.
General Manager John Mozeliak described the information about Wacha as "a little shocking to all of us." The Cardinals skipped Wacha's scheduled start Sunday to give him a breather.
"We did do a few studies on his shoulder a few days ago, which was a CT scan and an MRI," Mozeliak said. "Based on the returns on that, there is a stress reaction in his shoulder. Based on what the doctors are telling me, they think it's in his best interests to shut down and let this quiet.
"In terms of how long he'll be out, I don't know that at this point. We're going to give him a couple of weeks, see how he is and then re-evaluate."
Mozeliak said the 22-year-old Wacha (5-5, 2.79 ERA) has been dealing with shoulder irritation since early May in Atlanta.
"Up to this point, we always felt it was manageable," he said. "This past start he missed, we did it just to give him some rest. As we said all along, we're trying to bang some innings so come September, October, if necessary, he would be available, being a young pitcher.
"It's disappointing to learn of this, but obviously, he's too young and too valuable to take risks with."
Wacha described the discomfort as "tightness."
"It just takes a little bit longer to warm up and get loose, I guess," Wacha said. "It's just a little discomfort and something I'm not really used to. I'm resting right now and continuing to get stronger, building the muscles around it. Hopefully, it gets better quick."
Wacha said he hasn't felt right the last four or five starts.
"I thought I was just maybe getting a little bit tired; I just was not recovering the way I should be," Wacha said. "We thought rest would help it out, but it ended up being a little bit worse than what we thought.
"I've dealt with shoulder soreness and stuff. This is just a little bit different, a little bit deeper down in. I hope for a speedy recovery."
Mozeliak said the injury is similar to a stress fracture.
"To be specific, he's dealing with a stress reaction in his scapula," Mozeliak said. "This is not a very common injury to pitchers and one that we don't have a ton of experience with how to deal with. But we'll certainly do our research between now and the next couple of days to come up with a protocol for his rehab.
"It's not a surgical procedure. It's probably going to require some time, but I don't know what that means today."
The 27-year-old Garcia (3-1, 4.12 ERA), who was evasive when questioned following his five-inning start Friday that ended in a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia, was unable to complete his scheduled bullpen Sunday morning.
"It didn't go well," Mozeliak said.
Mozeliak said Garcia's injury is related to the other maladies in his shoulder, which underwent surgery in 2013 and caused him to be shut down on earlier occasions. Garcia missed the first seven weeks of this season after being idled in spring training.
"We're going to allow him some time to quiet down and just go through a standard rehab," Mozeliak said. "My understanding is the last couple (of starts), this is something that's been bothering him."
The Cardinals will need a pitcher to take Garcia's turn Wednesday in Colorado, with left-hander Tyler Lyons being the top option. Carlos Martinez, who started for Wacha on Sunday, will remain in the rotation and pitch Friday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
Right-hander Joe Kelly, who has been sidelined with a strained left hamstring since April 17, will begin a minor-league rehab stint Friday at Class AAA Memphis and will be on a pitch count between 40 and 60, Mozeliak said.
But Kelly will require a minimum of two starts before he's ready to become a candidate for the rotation.
"I still want to discuss it with the staff," Mozeliak said. "A lot of this stuff happened as (Sunday) was unfolding, so I haven't had time to do the normal protocol, if you will, for our meetings.
"We really don't know what's coming. We're putting two pitchers on the DL. I'm not in a position where I know they're going to return or how they'll return or the effectiveness of how they'll return. Joe Kelly, who we believe to be relatively close, still has to check those boxes. It does leave us in a little bit of a gray area."
Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams said he expects the Cardinals to be fine despite the losses of Wacha and Garcia.
"It's tough news, but we've got guys down in the minors that have proved they can pitch up here that will come back up and carry the load," he said. "The pitchers that are going to come up and fill spots are going to do great work. We've just got to keep playing as a team."
Second baseman Mark Ellis, who is playing for the injured Kolten Wong, said: "Injuries are part of the game. You look at every team around this league, they're going to have injuries. It's just a matter of how you deal with them. The good thing is we have a lot of depth in our organization. Somebody else is going to have to step up."