8/30/2014 7:24 P.M. ET
Wacha set for first game action at Double-A
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
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."
Lyons makes starting case with 4 2/3 shutout frames
ST. LOUIS -- Regardless of whether Tyler Lyons' terrific long relief stint on Saturday earns him consideration for a start during the next turn through the Cardinals' rotation, it at least positioned the Cardinals well for the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Cubs.
With Lyons covering 4 2/3 innings behind Justin Masterson, the Cardinals were able to stay away from the rest of their bullpen on Saturday afternoon. That will give manager Mike Matheny a full complement of seven relievers behind Marco Gonzales in Game 2.
"We obviously needed that," Matheny said after the Cardinals' 5-1 afternoon loss. "We needed somebody to come in and pick us up. He did a terrific job."
The appearance was Lyons' first since being recalled from Triple-A on Monday and his eighth for the Cardinals this season. He was fresh, not having pitched since an Aug. 19 start in Memphis, and especially efficient. Lyons faced 14 batters, and threw a first-pitch strike to 10 of them. Of the 52 pitches he threw, 41 were strikes.
"I just wanted to attack the zone and go right at them," Lyons said. "It's a tough situation for the team, because you have another game here in three hours. You want to try and save as much of the bullpen as you can. This time of the year, everyone is wearing down to some extent. To be able to do that and not have to use anybody else is a good thing for the bullpen."
Lyons allowed only one hit -- Starlin Castro's single to lead off the eighth -- and promptly erased Castro by catching him trying to swipe second. Eight of Lyons' outs came via the strikeout, a career high for a pitcher who had previously made 12 starts for the Cardinals.
"He did have a good rhythm," Matheny said. "He was feeling good. Most of the time you see these guys have good results, the ball is coming out of their hand, they want to get back up there and make the next pitch. Tyler is one of those guys. He has been throwing the ball well in Triple-A, and it really translated well for us here.
Lyons may have been simultaneously auditioning for a starting job, too, as Masterson's shaky performance could bump him from the rotation. Lyons made four spot starts for the Cardinals earlier this season. Asked if Lyons had earned himself a chance at an increased role, Matheny only said: "We'll see."
• Jason Motte (lower back strain) played catch on Saturday, after which manager Mike Matheny said the club has not yet determined what the next step will be for the right-handed reliever. Matheny said that with the Minor League seasons ending, it is unlikely Motte will be go out on a rehab assignment. If he wants to face hitters before returning from the disabled list, he can do so in a simulated game.
• Left-hander Kevin Siegrist continues to impress at Triple-A Memphis, and he remains on track to be called back up to St. Louis once rosters expand on Monday. In 6 2/3 innings since his demotion, Siegrist has allowed one earned run on three hits and three walks. He has struck out 11.
"He's done a great job," Matheny said. "I think he's just about ready."
• Matheny, speaking before the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, said that he plans to give all 12 position players at least one start on Saturday. He opted to start Yadier Molina in Game 2 because of his familiarity with starter Marco Gonzales and so Molina would have additional time to recover from a Friday night start.
• After advancing to the Gulf Coast League playoffs by winning their four-team division, the GCL Cardinals were eliminated by the GCL Red Sox on Friday with a 7-4 loss. Outfielder Magneuris Sierra distinguished himself as the standout player on that rookie-level club. Sierra, 18, hit .386/.434/.505 with 12 doubles, three triples, two homers, 30 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 52 games.
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.