Michael Wacha was the first choice to replace the injured Tyler Glasnow in the Rays’ rotation, and his initial outing did not go well Friday night.
Not at all. And right from the start.
Wacha allowed six hits and four runs in an ugly 27-pitch, nine-batter first inning against the Mariners in Seattle. By the time he was pulled in the fourth inning, that total was at 11 hits (albeit nine singles) and five runs.
By the end of the night, the Rays were beaten 5-1, tying a season high with four straight losses and dropping to 43-28. They still hold a half-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East.
About the only positive was that Wacha got through 3 2/3 innings, throwing 77 pitches total, limiting the work needed from the bullpen to get through the game.
Having bounced between starter, opener and relief work, plus spending three weeks on the injured list, Wacha had not thrown more than three innings or 48 pitches in a game since April 27.
The Rays scored first Friday, on singles by Manuel Margot and Austin Meadows, and a Yandy Diaz groundout. But it was pretty much all Mariners after that as the Rays managed only three more hits the rest of the night against Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi, who went seven innings, and the bullpen.
Glasnow left Monday’s game in Chicago with an elbow injury, diagnosed as a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor strain that will keep him out for at least two months. That created an opening for Wacha, 29, to return to the rotation, where he had started the season.
Wacha signed with the Rays as a free agent. He was one of several veterans brought in along with Chris Archer, Rich Hill and Collin McHugh to help cover innings following the departure of top starters Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, and the return to a full 162-game schedule after the abbreviated 2020 season.
But for a variety of reasons — his own pitching, a three-week stint on the injured list and the performance of called-up young pitchers Josh Fleming and Shane McClanahan — Wacha lost his hold on a set role.
He made four traditional starts, and one four-inning relief appearance, over the first four weeks of the season, then after missing time with a hamstring issue, came back and was used as a multi-inning opener and out of the bullpen.
He went into Friday’s game 1-1, 4.54 overall, having made the four traditional starts (going 1-1, 3.32), working three times as a multi-inning opener (0-0, 2.70) and making four relief appearances (0-0, 7.94).
At no point did the 29-year-old complain, which the Rays appreciated.
“He’s a pro,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Friday’s game. “He really is. (Pitching coach) Kyle Snyder and I and (general manager) Erik (Neander), we’ve tried to communicate really well.
“But saying that, guys, they want to pitch, they want to contribute. And we can totally appreciate and understand that at times here over the last month, ‘Wach’ probably hasn’t felt like he’s contributing to the extent that he was hoping for and that he’s capable of.
“He’s going to get that opportunity now, but at no time have we ever noticed him not being ready, and not ready to help whenever his name is called. He’s been really refreshing to be around. He’s come in here, he’s been a leader with some of the things how he goes about his business, the way he works, and think the way he communicates with younger players. So extremely appreciative of Michael Wacha.”
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