One more outing in Florida has changed that tenor, at least according to manager Mike Shildt: “Sharp.”
Flaherty tossed around three innings (50 pitches) as he led the Cardinals to a victory in a backfield "B" game against the Astros on Friday. Though he again had an inning rolled over to limit his pitch count and allow him an additional “up-down,” Shildt was very encouraged by the signs from Flaherty’s second outing of spring.
“Very favorable,” Shildt said. “Everything was a lot crisper. Fastball had some good life to it, getting it by guys. Slider on the plate more, breaking out of the hand better.”
Flaherty is coming off a tough 2020 that saw his season greatly stunted. His turn was coming up in the rotation just as the Cards’ campaign was paused due to a COVID-19 outbreak, and the right-hander was limited as he returned to action, with 26 days between starts.
Flaherty’s first outing on Sunday was of concern, as he retired just one of the eight Nationals he faced. But Friday was a step in getting him some momentum back to being the ace the club knows he has been, and the one it believes he can be again.
“Overall Jack was sharp, controlled counts better,” Shildt said. “Jack is a perfectionist, he wants to be better, but I was encouraged by the outing.”
Around the horn
• All told, it was Edmundo Sosa who starred against Houston. He hit a three-run homer, played third and second base, and threw out a runner trying to score from second after he raced back to collect a blooper into shallow right-center.
• Johan Oviedo followed Flaherty against the Astros in throwing a pair of crisp innings himself. The Cards plan to stretch Oviedo, their No. 11 prospect, into a starting role at the onset of Spring Training. St. Louis is keeping its options open with Oviedo; he could still end up in the bullpen, as it’s much easier for pitchers to build down to that role rather than build up at a later date.
“He’s a guy that clearly helped us last year and has the tools to help us again this year,” Shildt said. “Good start to camp in a live setting.”
Voting open for Cards HOF nominees
One of the following five, as selected by fans, will be the sole member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class, set to join the 2020 class -- Tom Herr, John Tudor and Bill White -- in an induction ceremony on Aug. 21, with the announcement coming in early May:
• Left-hander Steve Carlton (1965-71): Already enshrined in Cooperstown, “Lefty” was integral to the 1967 championship team and was a three-time All-Star during his tenure in St. Louis.
• Right-hander Matt Morris (1997-2005): Bursting onto the scene with 33 starts as a rookie just two years after being drafted, Morris peaked while leading the Majors with 22 wins in 2001, finishing third in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
• Shortstop Edgar Renteria (1999-2004): A journeyman as his career progressed, Renteria shined brightest in St. Louis, slashing .290/.347/.420 across six seasons, including a .330 average in 2003. He was a three-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger and two-time Gold Glover with the Cards.
• Right-hander Lee Smith (1990-93): Lee starred in his brief Cardinals tenure, saving 160 games (leading the NL twice) with three All-Star nods and two Top 4 Cy Young Award finishes. His Cooperstown-bound career was perfectly encapsulated by parts of four seasons as a Redbird.