Today officially marks the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. With a handful of teams opening camps today with their pitchers and catchers reporting, each week here at Baseball Essential we will spotlight one pitcher throughout the season. Pitchers are often the backbone of a club, and the old adage is that pitching and defense ultimately win championships. Over the last few seasons, more of a premium has been put on pitching staffs not only through the draft, but free agent contracts are also increasing each season as well. Currently the game is pitching dominated, and we will highlight these dominating arms here in 2015.
The inaugural spotlight will be on the St. Louis Cardinals’ right-hand pitcher Michael Wacha. This spring will be an important one for Wacha as he missed much of 2014 due to injury. Wacha is just 23-years old and will be entering his third year in the big leagues. In a much improved NL Central division, the Cardinals will need Wacha to remain healthy and provide depth in the back-end of the rotation if they hope to reach the postseason once again.
The Cardinals open their season on April 5 visiting the Chicago Cubs and will face the Milwaukee Brewers for their home opener on April 13. You can find available St Louis Cardinals tickets here.
When he is healthy and right, Wacha is one of the many young guns who can contend for a Cy Young award. In his rookie season two years ago, Wacha had a stretch of starts that was as impressive as any. He very nearly no-hit the Washington Nationals in his last regular season start of 2013, and also the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first ever postseason start. In the NLCS, Wacha stole the show from Clayton Kershaw and earned NLCS MVP honors. In a four start stretch, Wacha reeled off 29.2 innings pitched allowing one run and nine hits with 31 strikeouts.
Last year, Wacha was penciled in as the number two starter in the rotation. This year, he will likely begin as the number four guy for St. Louis. Pushing him back in the rotation could help alleviate some stress, and also provide a few more pitching match-ups in the young right-hander’s favor as his workload is built back up. In a recent interview, manager Mike Matheny spoke about the purpose of pitchers and catchers reporting earlier to camp.
“While most of the guys appear to be in great shape, the main purpose of camp is to condition the arms of the staff and prepare them for throwing a good amount of pitches and innings.” Building arm strength slowly is key early on in the season to avoid potential injury. Some of these staffs may go from spending two months in the sun to an Opening week series in less than ideal pitching conditions.
For the Cardinals and Matheny, Wacha will certainly be one of those arms that will be watched closely this spring. If he is able to regain that 2013 NLCS form, big things may be in store for the youngster.
Over the next few days as camps open, here are the report dates for pitchers and catchers around the league, and stay tuned for the next spotlight.
February 19: Cincinnati, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco.
February 20: Baltimore, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland, Arizona, Chicago Cubs, Miami, St. Louis, and San Diego.
February 21: Boston, Houston, New York Yankees, Seattle, Texas, Atlanta, Colorado, New York Mets, and Washington.
February 22: Milwaukee.
February 23: Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.