Cardinals win arbitration case against Wacha

Right-hander had career-high 5.09 ERA in 27 appearances last season

Cardinals win arbitration case against Wacha

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals earned their first win of spring on Tuesday by finishing on the right end of an arbitration panel's decision regarding Michael Wacha's 2017 salary.

The Cardinals hadn't been in a hearing room to settle an arbitration stalemate since 1999, but the club decided a month ago that it would take its case with Wacha that far. The arbiters heard competing presentations from Wacha and the Cardinals on Monday before determining that Wacha would receive $2.775 million, the figure submitted by the Cardinals. Wacha had been arguing for a salary of $3.2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Wacha was present as his agency presented his case. The Cardinals hired outside counsel to argue theirs.

• Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule | Ballpark | Coverage

"I don't want to overreact to a win or a loss on this thing," general manager John Mozeliak said. "I feel like this is just a part of the industry we work in. I don't want it to be awkward with Michael and I or the team, and I don't think it will be."

The organization recently adopted a trial-and-file philosophy, which meant that once it exchanged arbitration figures with Wacha in mid-January, independent negotiations ended. The exception to this approach came earlier this month when the Cardinals signed Carlos Martinez to a multiyear deal.

The Cardinals found out they won their case late Tuesday morning, about the same time that young right-hander Alex Reyes underwent an MRI exam on his elbow. Reyes' need for season-ending Tommy John surgery only augments Wacha's importance, as it all but assures Wacha of a rotation spot, if he's healthy.

Mozeliak said that the work Wacha did to strengthen the area around his right shoulder has produced the desired results. The Cardinals and Wacha are hopeful that this change in offseason training can help prevent a stress reaction from occurring a third time.

"We'll see how that shakes out, of course," Mozeliak said. "But clearly, if physically able to, he'll likely be in the rotation. I've always felt like Wacha, given what he's done for the organization, when right, he's been very good."

Flores incurs setback

Reyes was not the only Cardinals pitcher to undergo an MRI exam on the first day of spring workouts. Right-hander Kendry Flores, a non-roster invitee in big league camp, was sent out to have a similar scan on his shoulder.

The Cardinals signed Flores to a Minor League contract as a way to enhance the organization's starting pitching depth. Flores pitched primarily for the Marlins' Triple-A team in 2016 and has a 3.37 ERA in 131 career Minor League appearances (124 starts) over eight seasons. He has pitched 15 2/3 innings at the Major League level.

An early start

The Cardinals announced that they will host 30 of their Minor League players at the organization's annual Spring Training Early Program (also known as S.T.E.P. camp) beginning on Feb. 25. These prospects will receive extra instruction, sit in on seminars and be among the first in line for a Grapefruit League cameo once exhibition games begin.

Other Minor League pitchers and catchers will report to camp on March 6. Position players will arrive two days later.

Here is the list of this year's S.T.E.P. participants:

Pitchers: Chris Ellis, Junior Fernandez, Zac Gallen, Derian Gonzalez, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones, Andrew Morales, Johan Oviedo, Ronnie Williams, Jacob Woodford

Catchers: Chris Chinea, Jose Godoy, Ryan McCarvel, Brian O'Keefe

Infielders: Luke Dykstra, Tommy Edman, Alex Mejia, Delvin Perez, Dickie Joe Thon, Luke Voit

Outfielders: Randy Arozarena, Dylan Carlson, Bryce Denton, Blake Drake, Vincent Jackson, Nick Martini, Oscar Mercado, Nick Plummer, Austin Wilson

Worth noting

Lance Lynn, who has been working out at the Cardinals' complex for a few weeks, was not present at Tuesday's workout due to a death in the family. Mozeliak said that Lynn is expected to return by Friday.

• Twelve pitchers threw their first bullpen session of camp on Tuesday. Those pitchers included Adam Wainwright, Mike Mayers, Daniel Poncedeleon, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Bowman, Brett Cecil, Miguel Socolovich, Jordan Shafer, Seung Hwan Oh, John Gant, Sam Tuivailala and Trey Nielsen.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.