Michael Wacha could return to the St. Louis Cardinals in September as a reliever.
Wacha, 25, has been on the disabled with a stress reaction in his right scapula for the last month. It’s the same injury that hampered him greatly in the 2014 season.
But Wacha, who was feared by General Manager John Mozeliak to be lost for the season, threw a bullpen Wednesday at Busch Stadium and was encouraged.
“I’m going forward from there,” Wacha said. “I felt really good. I was real happy with the way it went. It was just 25 pitches at a moderate speed. Recovery (Thursday) feels good as well. So I’m real happy with where I’m at and I’ve just got some more bullpens ahead of me.”
Despite not pitching in so long, Wacha was optimistic about his chances to occupy a spot on the Cardinals’ bloated September roster. He won’t have the endurance to be a starter, which opened the door for a possible role out of the bullpen.
I’m just going to continue to keep throwing bullpens and getting the arm back to where I need it to be, back in shape. I’ll go forward from there. ... I’m feeling good and feeling strong and making progress. We’ll see where it goes.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha on his recover from a shoulder injury
“Yeah, definitely,” Wacha said of being confident about a return. “That’s the plan going into it. I’m just going to continue to keep throwing bullpens and getting the arm back to where I need it to be, back in shape. I’ll go forward from there.
“It’s great. I’m feeling good and feeling strong and making progress. We’ll see where it goes.”
Wacha said his arm felt better in the bullpen than it did in his Aug. 3 and Aug. 8 starts.
“I felt like I was able to get out and extend,” he said. “Just overall, it felt a lot better.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would like to have Wacha back in the mix.
“I heard (the bullpen) felt good and that he’s moving in a positive direction,” he said. “So the next step is always either another bullpen or possibly start talking about getting some hitters in and doing some type of live situation.”
On the down side, Wacha acknowledged there has been no progress made in attempts to prevent the problem from reoccurring in the future.
“Not much there,” he said.
Former closer Trevor Rosenthal, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, is slightly ahead of Wacha after having thrown two bullpen sessions.
Matheny said Rosenthal is tentatively scheduled to throw another bullpen Saturday, then dispatch him into a live batting-practice situation a few days later.
“I’d love to have Trevor in the pen when he’s feeling good and he’s right,” Matheny said. “The opportunity to get Michael involved, too ... We would love to keep pushing them. If they can get back, we’ll figure out how to get them involved. Especially where our club is now, we could use some experienced help in the bullpen.”
Rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz (broken right thumb) is 1-for-10 in three rehab games: two with high-Class A Palm Beach and one with Class AA Springfield.
Diaz, 26, could return to the Cardinals during the seven-game homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t played since July 31 in Miami when he was hit by a pitch from Andrew Cashner.
“He apparently played very well defensively (Wednesday), which was his concern with gripping the ball and throwing,” Matheny said. “I think right now, it’s just a matter of timing, trying to get the swing back to where it feels good. But physically, it feels good.”
Matheny remains befuddled, and a bit aggravated, with the Cardinals’ performance in home games this season. They are 30-38 at Busch Stadium after a 12-5 loss to Milwaukee on Thursday that dropped them one-half game behind idle New York for the second wild-card spot.
St. Louis hasn’t had a losing record at home since it was 38-42 in 1999 at Busch Stadium II. The Cardinals have 13 home games remaining this season and will have to go 11-2 to finish above .500 at 41-40.
“We care about the product that we put out there for our fans,” Matheny said. “If we’re drawing 43,000 here, we want to make 43,000 people really happy. But we’ve got to win wherever we go. We’ve got to win. That’s all there is to it. At home or on the road.
“Enough has been said about (the home record). We can’t deny it. We hate the fact that we’ve been able to draw as many fans as we have here and not been able to put them on their feet at the end of the game as often as we want to. We’ve got time to change that.”
Stay the course
Matheny pokes fun at himself for offering “the same old answers” to similar questions.
The manager was asked Thursday whether games are starting to take on a postseason flavor as the Cardinals battle two other teams for one of two wild-card spots.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to keep it similar in the fact that you prepare the same,” Matheny said. “Don’t deny yourself, also, the privilege of being where we are right now, in the middle of this, and realizing up on those boards when they start talking about teams that are in the thick of it and our name’s there, that’s an honor. It’s something never to be taken for granted.
“But don’t get so distracted to think we’ve got to go about things differently.”
Brewers 12, Cardinals 5
Milwaukee collected 17 hits, eight of them against Jaime Garcia, and smacked three home runs as it blew past St. Louis for its seventh win in eight games.
By the numbers
Garcia lost his fourth straight, allowing five runs (earned) on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Brandon Moss snapped an 0-for-29 slump with a single in the eighth. ... Kolten Wong hit a two-run homer in the fourth, his fifth of the season.
Carlos Martinez (13-7, 3.07 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (7-13, 4.36 ERA), 7:15 p.m. Friday.