Notes: Flaherty set to return; Hudson, too?

September 23rd, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- Exactly a month after he last walked off the mound at Busch Stadium, Cardinals fans will get to see pitching for the Redbirds.

Cardinals manager Mike Shildt had been tight-lipped in recent days about who he’d planned on starting the game that J.A. Happ doesn't during Friday’s split doubleheader at Wrigley Field. Shildt said on Tuesday it was possible that he could use an opener for one of the seven-inning games, but he declined to say who he had in mind.

On Wednesday, though, Shildt dropped the news that Flaherty would start the night game against the Cubs.

“It's just fun to have the opportunity to be back,” Flaherty said prior to St. Louis’ game against Milwaukee. “Watching these guys go out every day and win ballgames, it's been fun, but it's gonna be nice to actually go out there and compete with them.”

Flaherty, dealing with a right shoulder strain, never went down to Triple-A Memphis to make a rehab start, instead throwing a live session of batting practice Tuesday afternoon. After he got loose in the bullpen like he normally would before a start, Flaherty threw 15 or so pitches to Lars Nootbaar and José Rondón. Shildt wanted to see how he recovered after the session before determining when Flaherty would jump back into game action, and it appears that the evaluation came out on the positive side.

After missing a month of action -- and pitching only three times after a separate two-month stint on the IL -- Flaherty won’t be built back up to handle a normal starter’s workload.

Flaherty said he expects to be around the 15-pitch limit he was at during the live session. When asked where he’d expect to build to before his next appearance, he said he was focused on Friday and not looking any further than he needed to. Whatever his role is beyond his next outing, getting Flaherty back on the mound will be another boost to a club that already has a firm grasp on the second National League Wild Card spot.

“Anytime we get a guy like Jack -- who was on pace for an All-Star and a Cy Young type season -- back is a great thing,” Shildt said. “We'll take what we can get right now. We'll get a start with some capacity on Friday, so it's a real positive to see a guy like that back on the mound for us.”

Dak scratched, but ‘ready to rock’
Just before was set to make a rehab start with Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday night, he instead became a surprise scratch for the Redbirds.

But don’t worry, Cardinals fans. The call to sit Hudson had nothing to do with any kind of setback.

Shildt said that, with the amount of innings coming up for St. Louis that need to be filled -- the Redbirds will play five games between Thursday and Sunday -- the Cardinals made the decision to keep Hudson off the bump while the team evaluates its pitching needs.

“We're just gonna hold him back,” Shildt said. “We're just gonna evaluate where we are with our pitching. He could pitch for us, he could pitch for Memphis in Jacksonville. Both are on the table. We just want to be prudent about making sure that we get through the next couple of days and recognize where we are with our pitching. Just thought it was prudent to hold him back to evaluate.”

It’s been a long road for Hudson, who has yet to pitch in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery a year ago next Tuesday. He’s impressed in five rehab starts over the last month however, pitching to a 0.96 ERA and striking out 10 in 18 2/3 innings. Now, the Cardinals’ 2016 first-round Draft pick appears primed to make his own return to the big league club.

“I'm just happy he's doing well,” Flaherty said. “I'm happy he feels healthy, and he's been throwing the ball well, so I'm really happy for him. Whatever decisions are made are made, but I'm just happy he's feeling good. He's put a lot of work in over the past year.”

Added Shildt: “Dakota's ready to rock.”