Notes: Flaherty (shoulder) out for 2 weeks

March 18th, 2022

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty has been diagnosed with “a small tear” in his ailing right shoulder, according to team president John Mozeliak, and the club plans to shut down the right-hander for two weeks before deciding on a course of action for his return.

The tear is in the superior labrum anterior and posterior, or SLAP, which is described as a ring of cartilage-like tissue surrounding the shoulder socket. The good news is that doctors believe that Flaherty -- the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter in 2020 and ’21 -- will be able to pitch again this season for a St. Louis team that has designs on being a World Series contender. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his shoulder on Friday in Los Angeles. The team’s plan now is to rest him for two weeks before deciding on a course of action to get him back on the mound.

“They still think this is something that he can pitch through, and our fingers are crossed that that’s true,” Mozeliak said, referring to a shoulder tear Flaherty has pitched through in the past. “In terms of how to feel good about something, I guess this is probably better than what we could have been told, because he still has a chance. But any time you are dealing with this, it’s not great news. We’ve got to see if we [can] manage through this from a physical therapy standpoint and see if we can get him back on the mound.”

SLAP tears proved to be career-ending injuries for pitchers Mark Mulder and Mark Prior in years past because of the instability it creates in the shoulder. Hall of Fame reliever Trevor Hoffman is one of the success stories of recovering from a SLAP tear.

Mozeliak said that former closer Alex Reyes received a stem-cell injection in his similarly ailing right shoulder. Because Reyes was diagnosed with a frayed labrum, Mozeliak said the timetable for Reyes’ return is “late May or early June on him.”

Flaherty, whose strong start to the 2021 season was upended by an oblique strain and a sore shoulder, showed up to Spring Training earlier this week reporting pain in his throwing shoulder. Flaherty was asked if he had been able to throw off a mound during the offseason, and he declined to answer the question.

Flaherty will almost certainly miss Opening Day and potentially several games of the regular season, which opens for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 7. Mozeliak feels the Cards are well-positioned to absorb the loss of Flaherty, a nine-game winner in 2021. Adam Wainwright is the unquestioned ace, while Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson are back from previous arm injuries. Steven Matz was the team’s prized free-agent signee, while Jordan Hicks is nearing the form that he had from two-plus seasons ago when he needed Tommy John surgery.

The Cardinals also signed Aaron Brooks, Drew VerHagen and Nick Wittgren, and they are encouraged about the progress this spring from rotation contenders John Woodford and Johan Oviedo. Matthew Liberatore, the No. 3-ranked prospect in St. Louis' farm system, per MLB Pipeline, also could compete for a spot in the rotation.

“It’s a competition, and [Woodford] is going to get an opportunity, and VerHagen is going to get an opportunity, and we saw the young lefty [Liberatore] go,” Mozeliak said. “Everybody is going to get their chances, but there’s more pressure on the other four to make sure that we can count on them. Then, the pressure starts to become how much can you get [from the other candidates].”

The timing certainly isn’t great for Flaherty, who is about to go through a second round of arbitration with the team. Flaherty won a career-best 11 games in 2019, but he has struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons. Salary exchange between players and teams is March 25, and those proceedings could extend into the season if the two sides can’t agree on a salary.

Dickerson provides pop
The Cardinals’ signing of the left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson became official on Friday when the nine-year MLB veteran passed his physical. Dickerson signed a one-year deal for $5 million with an opportunity for bonuses.

Dickerson, 32, has played for the Rockies, Rays, Pirates, Phillies, Marlins and Blue Jays throughout his nine-year career. In 109 games with Miami and Toronto last season, Dickerson hit .271 with 18 doubles and six home runs. Over his career, Dickerson has an .845 OPS versus right-handed pitching -- an area where the Cardinals were looking for improvement.

“He fits the profile we were looking for, and he gives us flexibility in the outfield,” Mozeliak said. “Most importantly, from the left side, he’s done very well, and I think he’ll fit in well.”

Yadi’s return 
Yadier Molina remained out of camp for a fifth day on Friday because of a personal matter, but the club reported that the franchise fixture will make his spring debut on Monday. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said he has exchanged a few messages with Molina, but he will have a better feel as to Molina’s conditioning and baseball-readiness after Monday.