Due to the All-Star break and the alignment of the Triple-A Memphis rotation, Michael Wacha wound up going about two weeks without a start.
But once he got out there Wednesday, he looked as if he hadn't missed a beat.
The fourth-ranked Cardinals prospect yielded a run on two hits without issuing a walk and striking out eight over six innings as the Redbirds edged the Round Rock Express, 3-2.
Wacha appeared briefly in the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 17, but other than that, it had mostly been a two-week stretch without any live action. He said the short layoff didn't much affect his rhythm though.
"I pitched a couple innings in the All-Star game, but it's real nice going out there, the guys behind me making some great plays to help me go long into the game. Just nice to finally get back out there," he said. "I was just trying to treat the bullpens in between like going out there to start a game, stay sharp in the bullpens."
Wacha faced Major League veteran Manny Ramirez twice Wednesday, and both times the 22-year-old got the best of the spirited slugger -- but just barely.
"He almost took me deep there, luckily [right fielder Adron] Chambers went there and robbed a home run for me. I didn't really change much on him, he just jumped on my first fastball he saw tonight so I paid a little more attention the next time he came up. I pitched a little away and was able to get him to fly out, but to the warning track again," he said, laughing. "He's just the boss. Been around for so long, so it was pretty cool pitching to him."
Wacha's been effective in his first full season after St. Louis picked him with the 19th pick in last year's Draft. He's got a 2.68 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 18 walks in 74 innings. He also earned his first Major League callup, and in 17 2/3 frames in the bigs, he registered a 4.58 ERA and struck out 14 while walking four.
"[Going to the Majors] has helped me a lot, going up there and just realizing a lot of the stuff -- you can't really take a pitch off or you're going to get hit. When you come back here to Triple-A, you take that into consideration, you've always got stuff to work on," he said. "My job right now is just to keep pitching every fifth, sixth day from here on out and just keep preparing for the next start, see where it takes me."
While Manny couldn't quite get the extra sock behind the ball to put one out of the park, Round Rock's Jim Adduci went yard twice off -- once off Wacha and then again off winning pitcher Keith Butler (1-2) -- to lead the Express.
Jamie Romak also went yard for the Redbirds and Chambers plated a run.