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Demoted Wacha Told to Work on Command, Breaking Ball

MIAMI – Prized Cardinals righthanded rookie pitcher Michael Wacha was optioned to Memphis on Friday afternoon to make room for righthander Jake Westbrook’s exit from the disabled list to pitch against the Miami Marlins.

Wacha, the club’s No. 1 draft pick last year, was 1-0 with a 4.58 earned-run average in three starts, gaining his first win Tuesday in New York, working six innings and giving up two runs.

Manager Mike Matheny said the decision was made on the team’s flight from New York to Miami on Thursday. One of the things Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist wanted to see was for Wacha to throw his fastball more in the bottom of the strike zone, where he can pitch ahead more in the count, and to develop his breaking ball.

Even though Wacha was impressive over his final five innings Tuesday, he did need 37 pitches to get through the first inning,  in which he walked three.

“That bottom-of-the-zone fastball is what makes his changeup so good,” Matheny said. “It was time for him to go back.

“We knew … that we had to really monitor the amount of work he’s going to have from here until the end,” said Matheny, knowing that is more easily achieved at the minor-league level, where the outcome of a game isn’t so paramount.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation at the end of the year where we find we have a kid we can’t use, because he’s had too much work. We’re trying to be smart about that but also allow him to work on few things. We forget Wacha was in college a year ago,” Matheny said.

“It’s a good opportunity for him to go out and to have Tyler (Lyons) jump back in.”

Wacha was on his way to join Memphis in Albuquerque as Matheny spoke.

Lyons, the only lefthander in the rotation, is scheduled to make his next start Sunday. He won his first two starts and lost his next two.

Righthander Joe Kelly, who made 16 starts last season and a decent one some 11 days ago, hadn’t pitched since then although he pitched one inning of relief on Friday.

Matheny said that was the nature of being a “long man,” which Kelly is on this staff.

“We’re just going to have to find some innings for him,” said Matheny, “but it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen the following or two days. If you stretch him out for an inning or two and the next day, your starter has a little trouble in the third or fourth inning, then you’ve kind of shot yourself in the foot.”

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Posted by on Jun 17 2013. Filed under Sports.

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