ST. LOUIS -- For the first time in 74 days, right-hander Michael Wacha will take the mound on Sunday ready to compete.
The start will come in Tulsa, where Wacha will suit up for the Double-A Springfield club and throw 30-40 pitches in a start. He was cleared for the next step after having no setbacks following a 45-pitch live batting practice session on Wednesday. Wacha has been methodically working his way back from a stress reaction injury in his right shoulder, which forced him to the disabled list after his June 17 start.
What lies beyond Sunday for Wacha remains unknown. The Cardinals have talked about getting him another start in the Minors, though that will only be possible if the organization still has an affiliate playing in the postseason. There is also the option of calling Wacha back to St. Louis and having him start in Milwaukee late next week. But because Wacha would not be stretched out to pitch deep, the Cardinals would have to piggyback a long reliever behind him.
Whenever the return date is, the Cardinals are hopeful that Wacha can provide a September boost for a team contending for a postseason berth. Before he was shut down, Wacha had a 2.79 ERA and 1.118 WHIP through 15 starts.
"Having someone like Michael Wacha going out on rehab this weekend, that's very important," general manager John Mozeliak said. " Being able to take advantage of September callups is also something that could help this club, given how many games we're going to play in September and how many in a row. It will certainly give us an ability to refresh the team when need be."