St. Louis Cardinals Prospect Michael Wacha Dazzles in Spoiled Debut

Corey NolesCorrespondent IMay 31, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 30: Starter Michael Wacha #52 makes his MLB debut pitching against the Kansas City Royals at Busch Stadium on May 30, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

When St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Michael Wacha took the field for the first of what will likely be many, many times, he was instantly the pitcher we've written about time and time again.

But there was a difference.

On Thursday night, he did it at the big show. He started his career in grand fashion with a leadoff strikeout of Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon.

The 21-year-old right-hander from Iowa continued to show that he is exactly what we've all heard—a dangerous young arm with speed and finesse that is mature beyond his years. Wacha surrendered one run on two hits over seven innings. He struck out six and walked none.

Unfortunately for Wacha, his two allowed hits were close enough together to get a run across the plate.

The night was young and the game was moving along at a speedy clip. After seven innings, the game was just over one hour and thirty minutes in duration.

The young man, who had to endure the worst night for baseball in a debut I can recall, handled it all very well.

Any player would likely be at least a bit nervous during such a high profile moment. If that was "excited" Wacha, I look forward to watching "dialed-in" Wacha.

Then came Mitchell Boggs.

When Boggs entered the game, he turned what had been an exciting night, showcasing the organization's top pitching prospect, into just another long line of his recent failures.

Despite bullpen problems early on in 2013, with more clearly defined roles came increased stability.

It's hard to explain how much Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal mean to the Cardinals bullpen until they're not available for a night. Just like the rest of us, though, they need rest, too.

Regardless, when Boggs exited the game Thursday night, one couldn't help but compare the roaring "boos" to those of relievers past (Ryan Franklin, Jason Isringhausen).

While the situations differ, much like Franklin, Boggs has simply reached a point where it's not safe to send him out. On Thursday night, that was made clear.

Only two things cause collapses like what we have seen from Boggs in 2013. To go from being one of the best setup men in baseball, to the most feared man in the bullpen (though not for the right reasons) overnight must be the result of some type of mental block or an injury.

At this point, there is little reason to doubt the mental aspect of what is going on with the man who would have been the Cardinals' closer this season. It's difficult not to flash back to a young Rick Ankiel, who simply lost all control.

Again, they're very different stories, but don't be surprised if the results aren't the same. Ankiel eventually left. Isringhausen and Franklin left in short order.

Boggs could simply be sent back to Memphis, since his 2013 option has already been exercised.

His days were numbered in late April, but now, I imagine he's living on borrowed time. It's sad to watch a pitcher make the rapid descent from elite setup reliever into what Boggs has become.

He has the talent, but the Cardinals have taken too many losses at his expense to continue bringing him into games.

Despite its gloomy end, Thursday night was still a bright spot in the season. The Cardinals DID take 3-out-of-4 from Kansas City.

Besides, it's not every day we get to watch a young top-end pitcher like Wacha debut to the world. Stay focused on the positive because there is still plenty of it out there to find for Cardinals fans.