St. Louis Cardinals: Plenty riding on Jack Flaherty’s start on Saturday

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ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 1: Jack Flaherty
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 1: Jack Flaherty /
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The St. Louis Cardinals will recall pitcher Jack Flaherty from triple-A Memphis to start on Saturday. The right-hander will make his second start against the Pirates.

After the St. Louis Cardinals placed Adam Wainwright on the 10-day DL, they made the decision to recall Jack Flaherty from triple-A Memphis to start on Saturday. Flaherty will face the surprising Pirates this weekend with an opportunity to prove once again he is deserving a rotation spot. The Cardinals are fortunate to be able to dip into the minor league system and bring up a pitcher like Flaherty.

In his first start for the St. Louis Cardinals, the young right-hander went five innings, struck out nine batters, walked one, and gave up a single earned run to the Brewers. His fastball at times didn’t find the zone as much as he wanted, but his slider was downright filthy. He threw 57 of his 99 pitchers for strikes (63%), showing he his ability to pitch in the zone.

He was then sent down to triple-A once the Cardinals activated Wainwright off the DL. But Flaherty continues his hot start to the season.

In three starts for the Memphis Redbirds, Flaherty pitched twenty innings, struck out twenty-two batters, walked three, and gave up a total of five earned runs. He won each of his starts, adding quality starts to each of his wins as well. His opponents in three starts batted .169 against him and had a .245 BABIP against him. Opponents OPS against Flaherty is just a meager .449 in the minor leagues so far.

For his second go-around with the St. Louis Cardinals, Flaherty may have more of a challenge on his hands. The Pirates have played decent baseball to start the year, although they have lost seven of their last ten games. The Pirates are not supposed to be a headache for the contenders in the NL Central, so perhaps this is the beginning of things coming back to normal.

Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way though. It’s easy to dismiss this stint with the team as just a filler till Wainwright is healthy. And for all intents and purposes, it is. However, there is more to these starts by Flaherty than we might think.

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I don’t believe there is any urgency to bring Wainwright back as fast as possible, but good outings from Flaherty should quell any fears of cracks in the rotation. If Flaherty can turn in solid performances, it might do Wainwright well to continue to rest and heal up. But there is a serious question the Cardinals will have to address here soon.

If Wainwright will continue this off and on approach to the DL for the rest of the season, wouldn’t it make more sense to have an established starter in the rotation, especially if he gives you a better chance to win?

I think there are a couple of answers to this particular question, but the simple truth is the St. Louis Cardinals will use Adam Wainwright in the rotation when healthy because he deserves it.

It’s the same conversation we recently had with Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Extra Innings on Monday. Ortiz  says Wainwright has earned the right to say when he is done and when he should be out of the rotation. If Waino believes he can be of use in the rotation, don’t expect Flaherty to crack the rotation, barring any injuries. Imagine the conversation should Wainwright struggle on his return to the team.

The other thing to consider is what kind of value does Flaherty have on the trade market if he turns in one or two more brilliant starts.

Just the other day my friend and I discussed the St. Louis Cardinals pursuing Manny Machado early in the season. You would have to think the Orioles would want Flaherty and others for Machado, but could solid performances by Flaherty help lower the acquisition cost of Machado? In theory, yes it could, but it would take some serious convincing for the Cardinals to make this trade so early in the season considering what’s already known on Machado’s “interest” to play for the Yankees next year.

But I can’t help but think “what if” when it comes to trading Flaherty and outfielder(s) for Machado. It would help the Cardinals tremendously and would instantly put them in the driver’s seat of the NL Central based on the year so far. There is just one thing that I don’t think the Cardinals want to lose, and that is pitching depth.

While the Cardinals do have plenty of minor league pitchers in the pipeline, not all of them are major league ready like Flaherty. Flaherty offers protection at the major league level for injury or other circumstances. Losing Flaherty before knowing how Alex Reyes will return from the DL as a starter could be what’s holding the team back from making an early trade like the one described.

Either way, Flaherty’s start(s) have plenty intrigue surrounding them, but one can only hope he has success for him self and the St. Louis Cardinals. What comes after that is anyone’s guess.

Next: Top-10 prospects and their season so far

I am definitely looking forward to Flaherty’s next couple of starts with the team. Hopefully he can continue his form and bring home a Redbird winner.

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