PORT ST. LUCIE — Michael Wacha is healthy, and that is a great start. The big right-hander is one of the most intriguing stories of Mets camp.
If he can find some of his Cardinals success, the Mets rotation will get a huge lift. Right now there are six starters for five spots. The competition is on.
“It’s going to be interesting,’’ Wacha said Sunday at Mets pre-camp. “I did some different stuff in the weight room and mechanical-wise I changed up some stuff that helps my delivery, just a little better motion, and I think that will definitely help.’’
Wacha, 28, was 6-7 with a 4.76 ERA for the Cardinals last season as he suffered a shoulder strain. He was an All-Star in 2015.
“This spring feels a little different for sure. I feel very healthy, very strong. In 2018, I was knocked out with that oblique injury and that kind of carried over into the offseason when I was rehabbing that oblique all the way into the offseason heading into the 2019 spring training,’’ said Wacha, who was signed as a free agent. “It was nice to have a good offseason where I was fully healthy and fully recovered and I really got some good work in.
“This staff is unbelievable,’’ Wacha said of Jake deGrom & Co. “We got arms for days. It’s very cool. I’m very happy and excited to be over here to get to pitch alongside these guys and learn from them and see what they think on the mound.’’
Wacha is one of just 14 NL pitchers with a winning percentage above .600 since 2013 (minimum 60 decisions). FanGraphs ranks Wacha’s curveball as one of the 10 best in baseball over the last two years. His career home run rate of 1.01 home runs per nine innings ranks 19th in the NL (minimum 750 innings) since 2013.
Wacha owns a 3.52 ERA in 21 career starts against the Mets’ four NL East rivals. His lone shutout came at Citi Field in a three-hitter on July 18, 2017.
The Mets have depth in the starting rotation, something they did not have heading into 2019. They signed Wacha and Rick Porcello to go with deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz.
“My main focus is competing on the mound and throwing strikes,’’ Wacha said.
Wacha’s brother, Lucas, is a good athlete as well and played linebacker Sunday for the Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL. Michael played quarterback briefly in high school and played basketball, but pitching was his strength.
Wacha said he learned a lot from Adam Wainwright during his years with the Cardinals.
“There is a lot of things that go into my preparation, what I do in the offseason, preparing for a start, in-between innings there are a lot of things I’ve gotten from him and just tried to learn as much as I could,’’ Wacha said. “There are too many things to count that he has taught me.
“I’ve been in similar situations in the past, I embrace the competition,’’ said Wacha, who was engaged a few weeks ago. “Exciting times.’’