PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals have opted to give Tuesday's start in Cincinnati to right-hander Michael Wacha, who made the decision fairly straightforward with his dominant long-relief performance against the Reds last week.
After watching Wacha strike out seven and limit the Reds to three hits in four scoreless innings, the Cardinals started making plans for the 22-year-old to fill the fifth spot in the rotation the next time it came around. Wacha was briefly optioned to Double-A, threw a side session in Springfield (Mo.) on Saturday, and will be officially recalled by the Cardinals on Tuesday, the earliest date that he can be added back to the big league roster.
"The way he threw the ball the other day -- it was not like we were doing tryout camp -- but he made it very obvious that he's the guy we want to see out there," manager Mike Matheny said. "He looked great."
This will be Wacha's first start for the Cardinals since Aug. 10 and the fifth of his big league career. He has also pitched six times in relief. That bullpen work, coupled with the move the Cardinals made to have Wacha pitch in a six-man rotation with Triple-A Memphis this summer, limited his workload enough that the club feels comfortable eliminating any reins for this final month.
That means that if Wacha -- rated the Cards' No. 2 prospect by MLB.com -- can seize this starting opportunity, the Cardinals will be content keeping him in that role through September.
"The organization made some pretty proactive movements to help us be at that point," Matheny said. "We were just kind of putting guys out there and seeing what would work for us, just like with Tyler [Lyons starting last Monday]. We wouldn't have been very hesitant to throw him back out there. But Michael was just that good."
Wacha, Lyons and Carlos Martinez will travel to Cincinnati on Monday so that all three will be there when added to the roster Tuesday. The returns of Lyons and Martinez will give the Cardinals two extra pitchers in the bullpen capable of providing multiple innings.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.