First week proves how much Cardinals need Jack Flaherty

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Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 1, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Jack Flaherty #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 1, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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As the St. Louis Cardinals rotation comes under fire already, it proves how much the team needs right-hander Jack Flaherty.

Entering the season, the St. Louis Cardinals needed Jack Flaherty to stay healthy. With a rotation featuring the always-dependable Adam Wainwright, new addition Steven Matz and question marks such as Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and Jordan Hicks, Flaherty has arguably never been more important.

And the first week shows just how much the Cardinals need Flaherty.

Wainwright, as always, was dominant against the Pirates. But Matz struggled and Mikolas was unable to put away hitters. Hudson is starting Tuesday against the Kansas City Royals while Hicks is having his start pushed back to keep the rotation on its scheduled time frame.

Flaherty gives the Cardinals something that all those pitchers (except Wainwright) cannot: a dominant, dependable top-of-the-rotation arm. When he returns, he can single handedly transform their rotation, and it appears he’s at least getting somewhat closer. He has been cleared to throw up to 90 feet and has been working out at Busch Stadium three weeks after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right shoulder, Katie Woo of The Athletic reports, and intends to be with the team at home and on the road.

It remains unclear when Flaherty will return – it all depends on how he progresses in the coming weeks – but any sign of progress at this point is a welcome thing for a Cardinals team that needs its ace back. He will slide alongside Wainwright atop the rotation while bumping Hicks back to a prominent bullpen role, which is where he belongs, especially with Alex Reyes on the injured list.

In the meantime, Matz and Mikolas figure to be better in their next few starts. A blister injury hampered Matz after two shutout innings and what the Cardinals identified as the primary factor for the left-hander allowing seven runs. But it’s abundantly clear that they need Flaherty. His return cannot come soon enough.

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