Cardinals pitchers Michael Wacha and Greg Holland.

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Cardinals Lose Wacha, Gain Holland: How Will It Affect The Pitching Staff?

"This is a huge blow for this team, going into a stretch where they need Michael Wacha and they need this starting rotation."

June 21, 2018 - 2:23 pm
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The St. Louis Cardinals sit four and half games out of first place in the NL Central as we near the half-way point of the regular season. Lossing two of three to the Philadelphia Phillies was bad enough for St. Louis, but it came with, possibly, another extended trip on the disabled list for a St. Louis starting pitcher. But it also could be the start of a revived season for one of the major offseason free agent signings. 

Wacha was placed on the 10-day DL before Thursday's game in Milwaukee and John Gant was recalled from Memphis. 

Our Cardinals insider Kyle McClellan joined Chris Hrabe on last night's Sports Open Line to discuss the oblique injury to Michael Wacha and return of Greg Holland. They discussed who St. Louis could promote to replace Wacha and if manager Mike Matheny should again place his trust in Holland after two solid appearances on back to back days. 

First on Wacha, who left in the fourth inning of Wednesday's 4-3 loss with a left oblique strain and is having an MRI in Milwaukee on Thursday. He's expected to miss at least one start, but it sounds like it could be more. McClellan explained "obliques and lats are very, very similar" and warns that even if it's a mild strain it can take weeks of recovery time. The Cardinals have had plenty of recent experience with lat injuries, including Alex Reyes who had season-ending surgery on his right lat and Carlos Martinez was out for a month with a lat strain and has struggled in his recent starts. 

"This is a huge blow for this team, going into a stretch where they need Michael Wacha and they need this starting rotation," McClellan says. "They're going into this stretch of tough opponents here." 

Wacha was having a possible All-Star season and now St. Louis will likely be without him for series against Milwaukee (1st in NL Central), Cleveland (1st in AL Central) and Atlanta (1st in NL East).

The pitcher who replaces Wacha could be Austin Gomber, although that would leave Brett Cecil as the only lefty in the bullpen. If St. Louis chooses to pull a player from Memphis, it could mean the MLB debut for 23-year-old Dakota Hudson. He is 9-2 with a 2.13 ERA, which leads the Pacific Coast League.

McClellan says besides Jack Flaherty's dominance in spring training this year, Hudson was the standout pitcher for St. Louis. 

"(Hudson's) breaking stuff was a little bit behind Flaherty's ... But certainly very close behind him and was able to command a fastball," McClellan says. "Just overall it was impressive. So if he gets the opportunity I think he'll have a good chance to come up and do well." 

Hudson is not on currently on the 40-man roster but Alex Reyes will soon be placed on the 60-Day DL, which would make room for Hudson. St. Louis likely won't bring up a replacement until Monday, for Wacha's next scheduled start.

Holland's revival

It's odd to believe, but after Holland had a 7.20 ERA with five walks in five minor league appearances, he looks great back on a MLB mound. He struck out four in two innings of relief in St. Louis' last two games, walking nobody. 

After his first appearance on Tuesday, McClellan says he was ready to say "he's back," but then he did it again and says, "sometimes you just need a one-two-three inning and when you get that all of a sudden you feel like you broke through.

"Momentum is a great thing for relievers. And when you're struggling it seems like things always go against you. He comes in these last two outings and just like you said everything looks sharp, he's throwing strikes, all of a sudden the confidence, the momentum starts to shift the other way. And so this could be a great thing for him." 

McClellan says he could be the perfect seventh inning guy that would allow Matheny to not rely on Jordan Hicks for multiple innings in a game. Then with Bud Norris' closing ability, all three could be interchanged in their late-innings role.