ST. LOUIS -- Though Michael Wacha threw a combined 180 1/3 innings in 2013, the Cardinals entered this season planning to once again closely monitor his workload so as not to push the young starter too far, too soon in his budding Major League career.
It is for that reason that the Cardinals have opted to skip Wacha's next start, scheduled for Sunday, and pitch Carlos Martinez in his place. Wacha is physically fine, both he and manager Mike Matheny asserted Thursday. But there was some indication that fatigue was setting in.
"There have definitely been times over the last couple starts where I was maybe getting a little bit tired," said Wacha, who has allowed eight runs on 16 hits and seven walks in his three June starts. "Obviously, I want to be out there every fifth day. But we have Carlos in a situation where he's able to fill in; he's already stretched out a little bit. I guess it's that time to do it."
Martinez is stretched out after throwing 59 pitches in a spot start for Adam Wainwright on Monday. It was the need to have him available for Sunday that led the Cardinals to keep Nick Greenwood as an eighth reliever all week. Greenwood is expected to remain in the bullpen at least through the weekend.
Wacha has logged 90 1/3 innings through 15 starts this season, putting him on pace to throw 193 innings if he were to make a full season's worth of 32 starts. On top of that is the potential for postseason innings. That's why the Cardinals are choosing to preserve pitches now.
In 2013, Wacha combined to throw 180 1/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors. Of those, 30 2/3 came in October as Wacha benefited from the Cardinals' decision to have him skip 13 days between starts at this time last summer. In this case, Wacha will go nine days between outings.
It was Wacha's start in Tampa Bay last week -- a start in which Wacha allowed a season-most four runs while searching for fastball command -- that prompted the Cardinals to look for an opportunity to rest the right-hander sooner rather than later. They probably will do so again, too, in what is Wacha's first full season in the Majors.
"I doubt it's the last time," Matheny said. "We're going to be looking to get him time. That was part of the plan when we walked into this thing."
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.