Cardinals: Jack Flaherty struggles in spring training opener

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Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 15, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 15, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Jack Flaherty struggled in the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training debut. What can be taken away from it?

The St. Louis Cardinals held their spring training opener on Sunday, with ace Jack Flaherty taking the mound against the Washington Nationals. It did not go well.

Flaherty threw 39 pitches (17 strikes) while allowing three runs on four hits. He struggled with his command, allowing seven total baserunners, including three walks. He registered only one strikeout and threw two wild pitches, struggling with his command for the entire outing.

Flaherty, 25, is an obvious bounce back candidate after a down 2020 season in which he finished with a 4.91 ERA and a 49/16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He is the Cardinals ace of 2021 and the future, with the team hopeful that he can reclaim his previous form in which he earned Cy Young Award votes. One rough spring training outing should not change how the team or fans view him this season. In fact, it means nothing.

Spring Training, especially for pitchers, is about tuning up and experimenting with new ideas. It is unclear if Flaherty was trying anything new in this outing, but he and the rest of the pitchers around the league are knocking off the rust from the winter. Of course, it would have been nice to see the hard-throwing right-hander mow down the Nationals in a quick, stress free inning.

But Flaherty should continue to improve as spring training continues. He figures to see an improved run prevention unit behind him with the addition of Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado, who has been billed as the top defensive third baseman in baseball. His stuff should become more crisp and it is highly likely he fares much better in a (hopefully) normal season than the shortened 2020 season.

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Flaherty has also made it clear that his contract situation is not a distraction, which adds to the optimism surrounding his outlook. Yes, the start against the Nationals was not great. But as long as he doesn’t string together multiple outings like this, this start means relatively nothing going forward.

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