JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals and Jack Flaherty are seeking a second opinion on the hard-throwing right-hander’s ailing shoulder, meaning there is still no answer as to his availability for an organization that has visions of being a World Series contender.
Flaherty, the Cardinals' Opening Day starter in 2020 and 2021, almost certainly won’t be available for the season opener at Busch Stadium on April 7 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Flaherty was bothered throughout 2021 by oblique and shoulder pain, and the latter issue has now carried over to this spring. Further complicating matters is that Flaherty was unable to discuss his shoulder pain with the Cardinals medical staff throughout a 99-day lockout that stretched into March.
“We’re waiting on a second opinion, and until we get that second opinion, it would irresponsible [to discuss his status],” Cardinals’ manager Oliver Marmol said Thursday morning. “It’s the initial test that we’re looking at. So, I think the responsible thing to do is to wait for that second opinion and then lay out everything.”
The Flaherty injury saga comes a day after former closer Alex Reyes was sent to Pensacola, Fla., to see famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews about his ailing right shoulder. Reyes, who had 10 wins and 29 saves last season when he became a first-time All-Star, ultimately received inflammation-reducing injections in a shoulder that has bothered him since last season. His rehabilitation plan going forward will be set on Friday, when he returns to camp with the Cardinals.
Adam Wainwright, a 17-game winner in his 16th season with the Cardinals in 2021, is scheduled to start Friday’s Spring Training opener against the Houston Astros. Lars Nootbaar, a late-season surprise in 2021, will open as the squad’s DH on Friday. Tommy Edman will lead off and Paul DeJong will start at shortstop. Edman and DeJong are in position battles with rookie Nolan Gorman and Edmundo Sosa, respectively, to be the starters for Opening Day.
The Cardinals hit Spring Training on Monday talking boldly of contending for the franchise’s 12th World Series crown. With Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado at the corner infield spots, five Gold Glove winners in the field and loads of young talent, the optimism seemed well-placed. Of course, that optimism included Flaherty, who started 8-1 last season before injuring an oblique while swinging a bat against the Dodgers. Later came the shoulder pain that ruined his 2021 and now threatens his 2022.
While repeatedly refusing to speculate about the severity of his shoulder injury, Flaherty did shed a bit of light on his feeling about the ailment on Wednesday. The upcoming second opinion could change the optimism and result in the 26-year-old pitcher being shelved for an extended period of time.
“I don’t know anything until we hear back [about the MRI],” said Flaherty, who was unable to throw off a mound during the offseason. “We’re still waiting to hear back. I feel pretty good about things, but I won’t know anything until we hear back.”
Wainwright is the unquestioned ace of the Cardinals pitching staff, while others behind him -- such as Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, Jordan Hicks and Reyes -- are trying to battle back from major arm injuries. Hudson and Hicks needed ligament-replacement surgeries two years ago, while Mikolas dealt with an elbow tendon issue and Reyes had a sore shoulder late last season.
“Camp moves on and there’s a lot going on, so we’ll just continue to do our work,” Marmol said of the uncertainty that surrounds Flaherty’s availability. “It’ll be nice to know what the plan is with [Flaherty] and what the plan is moving forward. Our hope is we get it pretty soon.”
Yadier Molina, a franchise fixture over the past 18 seasons, has yet to report to Spring Training because of a personal matter, and Marmol said there was no update on the nine-time Gold Glove catcher’s availability. Closer Giovanny Gallegos, who missed a fourth day on Thursday because of a personal matter, is scheduled to be available for workouts on Friday.