Cards put ace Flaherty (oblique strain) on IL

June 2nd, 2021

LOS ANGELES -- For the first time in his Major League career, has been placed on the 10-day injured list. The right-hander has a left oblique strain, the Cardinals announced Tuesday, and there is no immediate timetable for his return.

“We’re going to put him on the IL, and he’s going to spend some time on it, and it’s going to take him a while to heal,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “It’s not a minimal situation; it’s a real strain, tear -- I don’t know what exact grade you want to call it, but it’s significant enough to actually miss some time.”

It’s a troublesome prognosis for Flaherty, who exited his start in Monday's 9-4 loss at Dodger Stadium after five innings and just 83 pitches. The Cardinals’ ace has a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts this season. Not only has he been the anchor of St. Louis’ staff for the past three seasons, he’s one of the game’s burgeoning superstars.

For the Cardinals, it’s an especially tough break, as the club was already missing a key rotation piece in Miles Mikolas, who is on the 60-day IL with right forearm tightness and still weeks away from picking up a baseball.

Right-hander Johan Oviedo, recalled from Triple-A Memphis as the corresponding move for Flaherty, is one possibility to take the open rotation spot. The rookie has struggled bouncing between the Majors and Triple-A, though. In five games (four starts) at the big league level this season, Oviedo has a 5.40 ERA (12 earned runs in 20 innings), with 16 strikeouts and a 1.60 WHIP.

“Ovi’s here, he’s got big league talent, he’s developing it a little bit at the big league level -- that happens more and more frequently in our game -- and our job is to help him get through that process, and we’re doing everything we can, as he is,” said Shildt. “A lot of it isn’t any big blocks he’s got to overcome, it’s just [getting] a little more comfortable, and it’s [achieving] a little more consistency in what he does.”

John Gant started Tuesday, Carlos Martínez is scheduled to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Dodgers, and Shildt revealed that the rotation for the upcoming four-game set against the Reds at Busch Stadium will be Adam Wainwright on Thursday, Kwang Hyun Kim on Friday, “to be determined” on Saturday and Gant on Sunday.

Oviedo could, in theory, slot in on Saturday. He would be pitching on seven days’ rest, having most recently pitched last Friday against the D-backs before being sent down to Memphis.

However, Shildt said the rotation picture, at present, is “a fluid situation.” Following the series vs. Cincinnati, the Cardinals enter a week with two off-days, meaning they could get by with a four-man rotation, albeit temporarily.

Another option is right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon, who started the season in the rotation but has since moved to the bullpen. Right-hander Jake Woodford could also be stretched out as a starter, having spent the bulk of his time in the Minors in that role.

“They’ve been built up, they’ve done it, they’ve worked in Spring Training, so I can’t rule out some version of that,” said Shildt, adding, “[It’s] hard to build a guy up to start at the big league level, because that only impacts your bullpen even more.”

As for two bullpen members with starting experience -- closer Alex Reyes and left-hander Génesis Cabrera -- Shildt was adamant that neither are candidates to move to the rotation. The hope is for Reyes to transition back to starting next season, but this year, he’s exactly where the Cards want him to be.