By COREY NOLES
ST. LOUIS --The announcement Sunday afternoon that St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia would be heading to the disabled list came as quite a shock.
After manager Mike Matheny's postgame press conference, we were asked to wait because general manager John Mozeliak would be making "an announcement."
We joked about what it could be, but a Michael Wacha shoulder injury wasn't even on the radar--not even as a joke.
A key component of the Cardinals 2013 postseason success and NLCS MVP, Wacha's quick roller coaster ride of a major league career has hit its first real speed bump. While he is only sporting a 5-5 record, his value is higher than the numbers would indicate.
Wacha's intended role is to become a second ace--similar to the Adam Wainwright/Chris Carpenter duos of years past.
Information regarding Wacha's injury is still limited at this point with no solid answers to questions like "how long will he be out?" Mozeliak suggested that he could be re-evaluated in "a little while," but was reluctant to set out any sort of timetable.
Wacha himself made mention after Sunday's game that he may throw again in "a couple weeks."
The most pressing question though, is how will the Cardinals reshape their rotation after losing a pair of starting pitchers in one day.
First, Carlos Martinez, who delivered a solid pitching performance Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, will remain in the rotation for the time being. While still not fully stretched out, in his most recent 74-pitch outing he appeared to still have some gas in the tank even when he was pulled from the game after pitching only five innings.
With Wacha in the rotation, there was room for Martinez to have some growing pains as he adjusts to being a major league starting pitcher. With Wacha gone, however, the Cardinals will be leaning on him heavily and his performance will play a major role in the overall success of his team.
Second, will be the addition of either Tyler Lyons (or another option) to fill at least one start--and likely more--beginning this Wednesday. Lyons is off the disabled list, but because he has not yet pitched in a game since his return, there's no way to determine the immediate level of effectiveness.
That's a question mark the Cardinals can't afford right now.
Inside the organization, however, that's simply a question they're going to have to deal with. While there is some pitching depth, with any of the available options a lack of experience will likely come into play.
Third, Joe Kelly will not be a factor--at least in the immediate future. Mozeliak made clear Sunday afternoon that he was not willing to jeopardize Kelly's progress by cutting him short from his rehabilitation process.
He'll make his first rehab start for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds on Friday, June 27. With a projected pitch count of about 60, in all likelihood, Kelly will require at least two and possibly three before returning to the major league rotation.
Overall, the Cardinals do have some options at their disposal--Lyons, Eric Fornataro, Tim Cooney-- but what they need at this point is not a pitcher who will need time to adjust to his promotion. They need someone with experience who can make an immediate impact.
With the All-Star break just around the corner, slipping back down in the standings cannot be an option. If Wacha's condition appears to be more serious, it's possible that the option they really need may have to come from outside of the organization.
Corey Noles is a Cardinals Writer and Columnist for The Daily Statesman. He is a regular contributor to KSDK.com and Bleacher Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coreynoles.