The St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in a tough spot as they try to do the right thing by their young players -- while at the same time trying to win a tough battle for a post season berth.
The return of second year hurler Michael Wacha was expected to give the Redbirds a huge boost at a time when their starting pitching had started to sag. But now the Cardinals have pulled the plug on Wacha's comeback attempt from a shoulder injury because he's having discomfort while having a hard time settling into his mechanics.
Wacha's absence has forced St. Louis to use rookie Marco Gonzales in what could prove to be a key game Sunday. But the Cardinals can't afford to risk Wacha's promising future for the sake of a handful of starts late this season.
By shutting Wacha down, it seems that the best case scenario is that he could come back and be a reliever in the post season. But the likelihood of that seems slim and, with no time to build his endurance, starting seems to be almost completely out of the question. But countless time over the decades promising pitchers have ruined their career by trying to pitch through a minor injury and, by compromising their mechanics, turning it into a major one.
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The only way to go with Wacha is to handle him like glass.
The Cardinals also have a dilemma when it comes to rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras.
The team needs to get Taveras as many at bats as possible to prepare him to be a consistent contributor in 2015. But, right now, it seems that the club can't afford to play the streaky Wacha on a daily basis because Peter Bourjos and fellow rookie fly chaser Randal Grichuk are out-playing the top Cardinals prospect.
Lately when Bourjos or Grichuk are in the outfield, the team more consistently wins than when Taveras -- who isn't nearly as good of an outfielder than the other two and who looks brilliant at the plate sometimes but completely lost others -- are starting.
Unlike Wacha, Taveras doesn't have a physical problem. He has an experience an a maturity issue. He'll get better over time. But he's not the best option right now. While Wacha's problem is unavoidable because of health issues, the Redbirds are making their own problems with Taveras because of the way he's used.
They can afford to take a long view with Taveras. It's better to let him get up to speed slowly than to place too much pressure on his shoulders and ruin his potential.