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Just spring? Still, Flaherty is 'never satisfied'

Mikolas nearing a return to throwing; Carpenter day to day
@Sportsgal25
February 27, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- To know Jack Flaherty at all is to understand that his biggest competition is himself. There’s a reason the Cardinals ace skipped right past a sophomore slump to string together a 0.91 ERA across his final 15 starts of 2019. It’s the same reason Flaherty earned

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- To know Jack Flaherty at all is to understand that his biggest competition is himself.

There’s a reason the Cardinals ace skipped right past a sophomore slump to string together a 0.91 ERA across his final 15 starts of 2019. It’s the same reason Flaherty earned Opening Day starting honors on Wednesday, with a month still left in Spring Training.

He's an intense guy, and one who expects a lot from himself. But after such a banner end to the 2019 regular season, how much higher can he realistically set the bar? The trick, Flaherty said, is realizing what the bar symbolizes.

And it’s a lot more than ERA or win-loss records.

“It’s not about getting better or having better numbers or putting up whatever it was in the second half,” Flaherty said Thursday, after his 2 2/3-inning outing in the Cards' 3-1 loss the Braves at CoolToday Park. “[It’s just] stay consistent, stay right there, start in the moment. Go through your process and trust that once you get on that, everything else will take over.

“It’s not worrying about numbers … it’s just going through the process and trusting yourself.”

Spring results mean little. And even then, Flaherty’s 2020 roster spot was never in question. But you wouldn’t know either of those by the way the 24-year-old carried himself Thursday.

After a pair of walks and a line-drive single led to the Braves’ first run with two outs in the second inning, Flaherty restlessly paced the backside of the mound as the next hitter settled in. Then he began to pound the plate.

Atlanta’s offense came as a result of Flaherty being wise enough to know that spring is less a time to post numbers and more a time to fiddle and fine-tune. After sitting down the side in the first, he set about tweaking his arsenal.

“I think you saw today … a guy that knows what he needs to do to prove to himself in the first [inning] what he’s doing,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “[He’s] hitting his spots, secondary pitches working, and then said, ‘You know, I’m going to work on a few things.’ Very mature.”

Flaherty didn’t let up until three consecutive outs -- two lineouts and a strikeout -- and a double pushed him to his pitch count set for his second spring start. Almost immediately, he began crafting plans for the third.

Because for Flaherty, a day’s work is never done.

“I don’t ever think, ‘OK, I’m satisfied.’ I’m never satisfied,” he said. “I could’ve gone out and thrown three perfect innings today, and I wouldn’t have been satisfied. There would’ve been something I felt I should’ve done different or whatnot, so there’s always something to learn. This is a humbling game, and once you think you have everything figured out, the game will humble you real quick.”

This and that
Miles Mikolas, who received a platelet-rich plasma injection Feb. 18, could begin throwing again in the next few days. Mikolas, last season’s Opening Day starter, is out at least the first month of the season with a right forearm strain.

Matt Carpenter, who was scratched from Wednesday’s game with back tightness as a precaution, worked out on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday and reported no issues. He is considered day to day.

Andrew Miller threw a live batting practice session on Tuesday that Shildt called “very favorable.” Miller is on the docket to throw Friday at the Mets, but Shildt said the Cardinals will leave the decision up to the veteran whether to work a game or throw another BP.

Up next
The Cardinals hit the road to take on the Mets Friday at 12:05 p.m. CT. The matchup marks the third of seven spring meetings between the teams. Adam Wainwright, who worked 1 2/3 frames in his debut on Sunday against New York, is slated to make his second Grapefruit League start. Also on tap to pitch are Daniel Ponce de Leon, Alex Reyes, Miller and Zack Thompson.

Dawn Klemish is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @Sportsgal25.