The stress reaction in the right shoulder of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha is showing improvement, according to an MRI exam Monday morning.
But Wacha, who has been on the disabled list since June 18, will continue to rest and rehab for at least the next two weeks.
"I feel like we're encouraged that there does appear to be healing," St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak said. "Right now, though, we're going to keep him on that same program (of rest) for another two weeks and then just re-evaluate then."
Wacha (5-5, 2.79 ERA) will be permitted to lift weights to keep his shoulder strong. But he will be restricted from throwing.
"The best news would have been he would have been cleared to throw. He's not there yet," Mozeliak said "Just taking a very proactive stance on this is best for him and his career.
"I'm sure he's frustrated and would like to be a little bit ahead of this, but I think this is in the best interest of him. Hopefully, by the time we do another MRI, he'll be cleared."
Little is known about how Wacha suffered his injury. The club doesn't believe it is related to his pitching mechanics.
"There's not a lot of history on this, so for us, in a lot of ways, it's just creating our own road map," Mozeliak said. "Having said that, we've had a lot of different doctors weigh in on this and I feel confident that these experts are giving us good advice."
Mozeliak said the Cardinals are shutting out Wacha's opinions about the progress he believes he could be making.
"You have a young pitcher who's thrown a lot this year," Mozeliak said. "It's probably in his best interests not to be a part of the equation on, 'Hey, how are you feeling?' because I do think he feels a lot better. But he's still not at the point where we can comfortable clear him to pitch."
Who starts Friday?
Rookie left-hander Marco Gonzales (0-2, 7.07 ERA) was optioned to Class AAA Memphis on Monday. Left-hander Tyler Lyons (0-3, 6.12 ERA), who will be available to work out of the bullpen against Pittsburgh this week, took Gonzales' spot.
"He's just another arm for us in the pen, a guy who can go and help us get through situations," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Right-hander Joe Kelly is the prohibitive favorite to start Friday against the Brewers. Kelly finally has recovered from a strained left hamstring and has made three rehab starts at Memphis.
Matheny said being in the big leagues was "a great learning experience" for Gonzales.
"Any time a guy gets here, it can be priceless," he said. "Also, (it was important) for him to see how these hitters reacted to his stuff. He saw first-hand that he has to do something different, and I think that's a great tool for him moving forward."
Mozeliak said the uncertainty about Wacha's return doesn't affect what he might do as far as a trade is concerned. He seems comfortable with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Kelly.
"I feel pretty confident that those five can be successful," he said. "There's probably very few pitchers we could acquire without having to give up one of those to begin with. I think that would just make it problematic. We feel pretty good about where we are that way, from a pitching standpoint."
Mozeliak acknowledged concern about the constitution of the Cardinals' roster, leading one to believe he will be aggressive to address the team's tendency to be inconsistent.
"I think you can say we could worry about a lot of things," Mozeliak said. "The right strategy is if we think there's an opportunity to improve, we'll try. But we're not going to make a bad decision just in a panic situation."
If the Cardinals add offense, a second baseman could be on their radar. Rookie Kolten Wong has been injured and began Monday hitting .235, while veteran Mark Ellis was batting .192. Tampa Bay second baseman Ben Zobrist is one option.
St. Louis also could move third baseman Matt Carpenter back to second base, where he played last season, and explore a trade for a third baseman, perhaps switch-hitting Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres. Headley, however, began Monday hitting .217.
The boldest move the Cardinals could make would be moving Jhonny Peralta to third base and trading for Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The cost, of course, would be high, and Tulowitzki's contract might weigh more than the Cardinals are willing to lift.
"Certainly, when you look at teams that are willing to trade players, there's just not too many of them right now," Mozeliak said. "We'll stay active on it. If we're able to do something to help the club, we're certainly going to try."
Siegrist inches ahead
Reliever Kevin Siegrist threw a bullpen Monday, another step in the process of being sent on a rehab assignment.
Siegrist figures to rejoin the staff after the All-Star break.
"He threw a nice pen today --nice and under control," Matheny said. "He felt good, which is a huge positive."