Reyes (shoulder) won't be ready for Opening Day; Flaherty talks shoulder discomfort

March 16th, 2022

JUPITER, Fla. -- While the Cardinals are still awaiting a diagnosis and a course of action for pitcher Jack Flaherty’s injured right shoulder, the club knows now for certain that former closer and hopeful starter Alex Reyes won’t be ready for Opening Day.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol announced on Wednesday morning that Reyes had been taken to Pensacola, Fla., to be evaluated by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Reyes was scheduled to receive “therapeutic injections” in an ailing right shoulder that has bothered him since late last season

Reyes, an All-Star in 2021, is scheduled to rejoin the Cardinals on Friday, and his rehabilitation plan will be formulated then. Because he didn’t throw off a mound during the offseason, Reyes is thought to be several weeks behind and won’t be ready for Opening Day, according to Marmol.

In what proved to be his first full MLB season, Reyes went 10-8 with a 3.24 ERA and 29 saves in 2021. However, five blown saves and late-season shoulder woes led to him losing the closer’s job to Giovanny Gallegos.

As for Flaherty, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter in 2020 and ‘21, his status is also in jeopardy for April 7, when the club opens the regular season in St. Louis against the Pirates. Flaherty, who was bothered by an oblique injury much of last season, said he has been feeling pain in his right shoulder all offseason.

“I had a little bit of discomfort since the end of last season,” Flaherty said. “It’s just something we worked through and kept working at, and it was kind of up and down. They wanted to get another look at [my shoulder]. The lockout made things difficult to have any type of communication, so they just want to get another look at it. I came in and saw the doctors, and they just want to get another look at it.”

Being without a chunk of their core players -- which includes catcher Yadier Molina and Gallegos, who are both dealing with personal matters -- “isn’t ideal,” Marmol said. The Cardinals’ new manager said his organization’s training staff created offseason workout plans for players prior to the onset of the MLB lockout, but limits on communication between the sides during that period made it tough.

“That’s the part we’re going through now, where with the lockout we weren’t able to kind of understand where everybody’s at, and now that we know, we’ll put a plan together,” Marmol said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with [Flaherty and Reyes] not knowing how much to push once they got going, but there was some lingering pain and then they shut it down. When they tried to get it ramped up again, it didn’t feel right, and the smart move was to not try to push through it.”

Flaherty ‘s massive potential became apparent when he struck out 182 batters in 151 innings and posted a 3.34 ERA in 2018. He closed ‘19 with a career-best 11 games won while striking out 231 batters and posting a stellar 2.75 ERA in 196 1/3 innings.

Limited to just nine starts in the COVID-shortened season of 2020, Flaherty returned in ‘21 and won his first eight decisions. He appeared headed for his first MLB All-Star Game, but he sustained an oblique strain during an at-bat in May against the Dodgers, and he was never the same. Flaherty made only six more appearances, and he finished 2021 with only 78 1/3 innings pitched.

Flaherty said there’s no comparing his shoulder pain now to the nagging oblique issue he had last season.

“I don’t compare anything, and everything is its own thing,” he said. “I do everything I can to be ready to go, and I put myself through everything I possibly could have this offseason. Then, they wanted to get another look at [my shoulder].”

Flaherty said he was delighted to see Marmol named the successor at manager after the Cardinals dismissed Mike Shildt days after losing to the Dodgers in the 2021 National League Wild Card Game. Flaherty said he and Marmol have a great relationship and that will help going forward this season, a season in which he hopes he’ll be healthy and back on track to dominate.

“I love Oli,” Flaherty gushed. “He’s a good guy and easy to communicate with. He’s honest, we’ve got a very good relationship and we can be honest with each other and have that communication. I’m excited to have him, be around him and have him manage this ball club.”

Worth noting

Marmol announced that Adam Wainwright (Friday vs. Astros), Miles Mikolas (Sunday at Mets) and free-agent signing Steven Matz (Monday at Nationals) will be the starters for the Cardinals' first three Spring Training games. Marmol said he has yet to make a decision as to who will bat DH, a position that will be implemented throughout MLB this season.