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St. Louis Cardinals' Michael Wacha pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Michael Wacha’s much-delayed return to action has been called off as recurring pain in his oblique has effectively run out the clock on pitching again this season.

“Given the setback that Michael had, we’re running out of runway to get him ready to come back this year, so Michael’s basically going to start looking to 2019,” general manager Michael Girsch said Monday. “Basically he’s shut down for the year.”

So unless something unexpected happens in the final three weeks of the season, and whatever else may follow, an excellent season for the Cardinals righthander is over. Wacha had an 8-2 record and a 3.20 ERA in 15 games. He struck out 71 in 84 1/3 innings while walking 36. He last pitched in a major-league game on June 20. He had been making progress on his rehab assignments until his final one, on Aug. 28, when he felt fatigue in the area of his oblique strain on his left side and cut the outing short. He was supposed to resume pitching on Friday, but he felt discomfort before the game and the plans were scrapped.

“He was down there, ready to go,” Girsch said, “and it just started to bother him again. Once he had it, every cough, every sneeze, every time he laughed, he started to feel it. It just didn’t make sense to push it. If you can feel it, it’s not ready to go.”

Girsch said the team had considered doing like they had done with Carlos Martinez and bringing Wacha back as a reliever, but there may not be time to even do that.

“With this setback, he would need to be down for a little while before we started to ramp him back up,” Girsch said, “at which point we would be sort of chasing our tail trying to get it done in time.

“We gave him some time, slowed him back down, gave him eight or 10 days instead of four and tried to ramp him back up. It just isn’t making progress. … It’s a recurrence of the same injury. It hasn’t healed to the point where he’s comfortable.”

As a procedural matter, the Cardinals moved Wacha from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list on Monday to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Adam Wainwright. The move amounted to paperwork: Wacha has been on the disabled list since June 21, so he’s already been on more than 60 days and could have been activated at any time.

Manager Mike Shildt said that at the beginning of the month, when he and pitching coach Mike Maddux were laying out the pitching rotation for the rest of the season, he had penciled in Wacha for starts, but when his rehab hit a bump and Wainwright’s came on, changes were made. “There’s been some erasing involved,” he said.

MOLINA ON HOLD

Girsch said injured catcher Yaider Molina was “starting to do some baseball stuff” and was making progress for a return, hopefully, he said, later in this homestand, which runs through Sunday. “We can’t narrow it down too much beyond that,” Girsch said. “We’ll progress him as quick as we can while being smart about his progression.”

Mike Mayers, who has been out since Aug. 26 with right shoulder inflammation, could be activated as early as Tuesday. He made a rehab appearance for Memphis on Sunday, returned to St. Louis on Monday and passed all his tests.

Jedd Gyorko, out since Aug. 29 with a left groin strain, hit on Monday and Girsch said he should be back later this week.

Molina was named Monday to a team of major leaguers who will play in a series of games in Japan against players from Nippon Professional Baseball from Nov. 8 to 15.

NOTES

Daniel Poncedeleon will start for the Cardinals on Wednesday against the Pirates, pushing the rest of the rotation back a day for their big four-game series with the Dodgers. Shildt said it was a combination of getting the starters more rest and lining his team’s arms up for the Dodgers. “We want to be mindful of rest,” he said. “It was a bullpen day we had scheduled more or less anyway. The work turned out that Ponce got his two innings in Detroit (on Saturday) and we feel good about that, and it’s a chance for us to set our rotation based on competition and based on rest for not only that series but the remainder of the calendar.” ...

After resting him one day in Detroit, Shildt said Kolten Wong is good to play every day now. ...

Matt Carpenter’s Bueno Mojo Salsa goes on sale at Schnucks on Thursday. A portion of the proceeds goes to Cardinals Care.

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Tom Timmermann • 314-340-8190

@tomtimm on Twitter

ttimmermann@post-dispatch.com

 
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