Lackey, Wacha will face Reds in weekend series

Lackey, Wacha will face Reds in weekend series

ST. LOUIS -- Encouraged by the pitch command Michael Wacha showed during bullpen sessions on Sunday and Wednesday, the Cardinals are ready to insert the right-hander back into the rotation to see if he can provide a boost down the stretch and potentially into October.

Following Wacha's mound session on Wednesday, manager Mike Matheny announced that Wacha will start against the Reds on Saturday. John Lackey has been slotted in to start on Friday, which means Lackey will have had eight days off since his last start, which lasted only two innings because of an ejection.

Wacha will be pitching on 10 days' rest. That extra time was built in after the club was concerned with the lack of crispness on Wacha's pitches and how his arm responded after his start against Cincinnati on Sept. 9. Wacha, who has made two starts since missing 11 weeks with a right shoulder stress reaction, used this down time to work in extra throwing on the side.

Because this layoff did not cost Wacha the arm strength he had been building up, the Cardinals expect that he'll be able to push past 70 pitches (the total thrown in his last outing) if his command is sharp.

"I don't see us going backwards," Matheny said in answering a question about potential pitch count. "I think we'll have kind of a number in mind. If he looks good, we'll stretch him. If he doesn't, we're not going to necessarily have to push it to a number. We have to win a game."

The scheduling of Wacha's start means that he will face the Reds in consecutive outings. Cincinnati tagged Wacha for six runs (five earned) on six hits three walks in four innings last week. Wacha did not find the feel for his changeup during that start.

As for Lackey, the Cardinals delayed his start by three days after the veteran notified the staff that he was dealing with a "dead arm sensation." Lackey has given up eight runs on 13 hits over his last two starts (eight innings).

The Cardinals have three long relievers -- Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons and Nick Greenwood -- ready behind either of these pitchers if needed.

"I would say from here on out, every pitcher is going to have to be on point," Matheny said. "Any time something doesn't look right, we'll be able to jump in. Marco, [who started in place of Wacha on Sunday], has definitely put himself in that mix to be a guy who can come in early in the game and give us a chance. So we're not going to shy away from that."

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.