The St. Louis Cardinals have the depth to overcome injuries to their rotation, but not to replace the top-end of the rotation stuff they need from Jack Flaherty
It was everyone's top question surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals entering the 2023 season - would the team have enough pitching to contend this year? So far, it looks like the Cardinals are entering the season with enough pitching depth to overcome injuries to rotation with arms like Jake Woodford and Matthew Liberatore ready to step in. There is one name the Cardinals can't afford to have struggle though, and that is Jack Flaherty.
I won't bore you with the same conversation points - Flaherty is their only starter with ace-like stuff, and they've been banking on him to return to form for the 2023 season. Yes, it's Spring Training, but at the end of the day, early returns from Flaherty are at a minimum concerning for the Cardinals.
Flaherty will finish his 2023 Spring Training with a 6.41 ERA in 19.2 innings of work, striking out 15, walking 7, and allowing a batting average of .329 against him. In his last start of the spring, the right-hander went just 3.2 innings, allowing 6 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, and only 1 K while just 39 of his 69 pitches were strikes.
Flaherty is set to pitch in game two of the season for the Cardinals on Saturday, and the club desperately needs him to sort through his issues between now and then. It's not time to give up on Flaherty, that would be an overreaction. But entering the season without a clear top-end starter is not ideal for any club, especially one with high expectations like St. Louis.
Miles Mikolas has earned the Opening Day start and should provide stability for this Cardinal rotation. Jordan Montgomery and Steven Matz are quality arms that will benefit from an elite defense behind them and an even better offense to support them. Jake Woodford will start in the rotation to begin the year in place of Adam Wainwright, and both right-handers should be quality number-five starters for St. Louis.
There is time for Flaherty to sort things out, but if the results don't begin to back up the talk from Flaherty and the Cardinals' front office, they will have to look for an external option. In all honestly, even a good start to 2023 for Flaherty would still mean the Cardinals should be looking for an ace in my opinion, but this camp has made the issue even more pressing. This club can win a lot of games in the regular season with the pitching staff they have, but I don't think they can go far in October without reinforcements.