Jack Flaherty strong in third rehab start

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Whereas Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty came into Sunday’s third Minor League rehabAlthough he began with a workmanlike mentality in the first inning, his competitive side took over when Double-A Arkansas loaded bases with two singles (and a walk) in the fourth.

That was the moment, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak would say later from seats just behind home plate, when Flaherty’s competitive fire took over and he resembled the staff ace of 2019 and the team’s Opening Day starter in 2020 and ’21.

Flaherty was sidelined since June due to a right shoulder strain. He pitched three innings and ended his final inning with the Springfield Cardinals by striking out three batters. To get Zach DeLoach to swing for the check, Flaherty used a 95-mph sinker with 11 inches of vertical break according to Statcast. Then, Flaherty’s 79 mph curveball (13 inches of vertical break) and an 86 mph cutter (7 inches of horizontal fade) got Kaden Polcovich and Jake Anchia to whiff to get out of the jam.

“I had to find a way to execute,”Flaherty stated after Flaherty allowed a run and four runs over four innings while striking seven out and walking one, Flaherty was relieved. Springfield’s 6-5 win. “When the game starts, it’s, ‘Hey, we want to throw more of this [particular pitch],’ but then it’s, ‘OK, we’re in this spot and now we’ve got to compete and put up zeros.’”

Flaherty, who was 9-1 in the 2021 season before being sidelined by shoulder and oblique injuries, hopes to be back in the Cardinals’ rotation before the playoffs. He is expected one more. rehabHe will likely start Friday at Triple-A Memphis, throwing as many as 90 pitches, and he could tentatively return to the Cardinals during their Aug. 29-31 series.

Mozeliak, who recently brought stability to the Cardinals’ pitching staff by dealing for left-handers Jordan Montgomery and José Quintana prior to the Trade Deadline, liked what he saw in Sunday’s fourth inning from Flaherty. Already, he’s dared to dream about what the Cardinals’ pitching staff could look like if Flaherty can find the form that he had in recent years before injuries hit. Flaherty and Steven Matz (torn ACL) could be added to the Cardinals’ starting lineup.

“If you allow yourself to dream a little bit — that is free, right? — you sort of think back to 2019, and what would we look like if we could get that again?” Mozeliak said. “Getting that would change the dynamic of our club overall. Right now, there is some optimism based on what we saw today, which was great. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed that we have to make those type of decisions.”

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No one is pulling harder to help Flaherty make it back into the big leagues more than Arkansas Travelers right-hander Taylor Dollard. According to MLB Pipeline the seventh-ranked prospect in Mariners system is Taylor Dollard, the Arkansas Travelers right-hander, who is 12-2 this year with a 1.93 ERA. Flaherty, 26, has known Dollard, 23 years, since they were both 8 years old. They played in the same youth baseball league in Los Angeles.

“Jack’s taken me under his wing and helped me pursue a big league career,”Dollard, who is first in several major Texas League pitcher statistics, said. “He’s helped me with my work ethic, planning my routines and throwing certain pitches.

“It’s been really tough with Jack with the injuries, and it’s hard to see him go through it because he works harder than anybody I’ve ever met,”Dollard said. “To see him sidelined is tough, but if there’s a person who can handle it and come back stronger and better, it’s Jack.”

Flaherty threw 65 pitches on Sunday. His fastball averaged 93 mph and topped out at 96 (twice), 95 and 95, respectively. He had a strikeout in the first innings, and needed only 10 pitches to win the second. He struck out two more in the third and forth innings.

When asked if it was possible to pitch again in big leagues without making a fourth, he said yes. rehabFlaherty curtly stated: “Not my decision. Never has been and that’s still my mindset.” Flaherty’s rehabHis time with the Cardinals was cut short in June, but he felt some relief in his shoulder. Flaherty stated that such concerns are not present at the moment.

“It feels good to come out of it healthy,” he said of Sunday’s outing. “Obviously, you want to come out of there on a positive note, but it feels really good to come out of there healthy.”

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