'Everything feels great': Flaherty ramping up shoulder rehab

May 19th, 2022

This story was excerpted from John Denton's Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ST. LOUIS -- Standing tall on the mound with that unique high-glove setup as he looks for the sign, pitcher Jack Flaherty finally feels a sense of normalcy in his life again. The only thing that feels better than being back on the bump, Flaherty insisted, is the sensation he gets when he snaps a curveball.

“Everything feels really good, and it’s been fun watching how the ball is coming out of my hand and how it feels coming out,” Flaherty said following a recent bullpen session at Busch Stadium. “Everything [in my pitch arsenal] has been thrown, and it feels good coming out of my hand. It’s been great seeing what the ball is doing, and I’m really happy where I am.”

It’s what the Cardinals want to hear from one of their most dynamic starting pitchers, who has yet to see any game action this season because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Unable to talk to team doctors during the lockout, Flaherty couldn’t notify the team that he was still experiencing shoulder pain that surfaced late last season. Flaherty, the Opening Day starter in 2020 and ’21, has pitched two seasons with a minor tear and bursitis in his throwing shoulder. In hopes of avoiding surgery, the Cardinals put him on a rehab plan in March, in which he used injections of platelet-rich plasma, as well as a strengthening program and rest, to alleviate the inflammation.

Cautious about putting any sort of timetable on his return, Flaherty said, “It’s going well. Everything feels great so far.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Flaherty has had to endure the frustration of an injury. Last season, when he made an early push toward an All-Star Game berth and a possible National League Cy Young Award, the 26-year-old right-hander saw an 8-1 start derailed by an oblique tear. That injury, Flaherty said, tested his patience.

“Last year, the oblique injury felt longer because there wasn’t necessarily a timetable, and I really couldn’t do anything to speed it up,” said Flaherty, who ended up missing nearly 10 weeks of action. “It wasn’t like I could do more rehab; I had to just give it more time to heal, which felt like forever. It wasn’t like I could put this on it or do this exercise because we had to let it heal first. And it was the first time I had injured [an oblique], so that just made it a lot different than this year.”

Manager Oliver Marmol said that Flaherty is right on track with the late May/early June projections the team originally put on the pitcher’s return. He said the team will continue to add to the intensity of Flaherty’s throwing sessions, mixing in live bullpens soon. Eventually, Flaherty will be sent out on a rehab assignment to prepare him to pitch for the Cardinals again.

For now, Flaherty can take solace in being back on the mound and watching the action on the pitches coming out of his hand.

“That’s why we love to play the game. To be on that mound, that’s what I love to do,” said Flaherty, who didn’t throw off the mound during the offseason. “I like being in here supporting these guys and pulling for them, but I really want to be back out there. Everything is feeling good, and I’m confident.”