Postseason star Wacha still trying to impress

Postseason star Wacha still trying to impress

JUPITER, Fla. -- If Michael Wacha wanted a reminder of the difference a year makes, all he had to do was peer up at the Roger Dean Stadium video board minutes before his spring debut. There, he could relive his October.

After the video highlights had ended and the applause had waned, Wacha took the mound with aspirations much simpler than those put on his shoulder last postseason. He just wants to make the team.

"I feel like I still have to make an impression," Wacha said after his 1 2/3-inning start. "I'm still trying to win a job right now. I'm still going out there trying to make a good impression and trying to get guys out."

Later informed of Wacha's answer, manager Mike Matheny grinned.

"Exactly the right answer," he said. "We should probably put that on a poster out there. Or a T-shirt."

Wacha's sensational October -- one that included wins in each of his first four postseason starts and a National League Championship Series MVP trophy for the mantel -- puts him in strong position for an Opening Day rotation spot. Last year, he arrived at his first Spring Training trying to get noticed. Nowadays, he's merely trying to keep a stranglehold on that spotlight.

Wacha won't be matching the standout spring results he had in 2013, when he struck out 15 and did not allow an earned run in 11 2/3 innings. He walked one batter in his five appearances last spring. On Sunday, he issued two walks in the first inning alone.

Searching for his fastball command, Wacha threw 30 pitches in that opening inning. Curtis Granderson clobbered a hanging one-out changeup for a double in between those two walks, but Wacha wiggled out of the inning unscathed. He retired two batters in the second before being removed due to pitch count (39).

"I think I might have been a little too amped up -- a couple fastballs up in the zone where I didn't want them," Wacha said. "I just had to settle down going out there in the second inning and it worked out a lot better. … I have to get better throwing that first-pitch strike, attacking them with my stuff, and then throwing quality strikes."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for 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.