The Cardinals, surging toward a playoff berth with a prodigious September winning streak, will get another boost to their postseason hopes this weekend. Opening Day starter Jack Flaherty is expected to be activated from the injured list to start the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, manager Mike Shildt told reporters tonight (Twitter links via Katie Woo of The Athletic). Flaherty isn’t fully stretched and will be more of an opener than a traditional starter, but his return is a notable development for a Cardinals club that now finds itself with a commanding lead on the second Wild Card spot in the National League.
Flaherty missed more than two months this summer with a severe oblique strain, and his return to the club lasted just three games before he went back on the shelf with a shoulder strain on Aug. 25. He’ll be returning without a minor league rehab assignment, though Flaherty has been throwing bullpen sessions as he works back toward the big league roster. Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat tweeted this past weekend that Flaherty had thrown around 30 fastballs in a recent session, and Shildt said just yesterday that Flaherty had warmed up in the ’pen before throwing 15 or so pitches to live hitters on the field (video link via Bally Sports Midwest).
It’d be a surprise to see Flaherty go more than a couple of innings, but Friday’s outing could help to build him up a bit more for a lengthier outing sometime next week. He may not be fully stretched out by the time a theoretical postseason series would start, but Flaherty would presumably be a multi-inning option in some capacity early on — with a chance to build up further should the Cardinals make a deep run on the heels of their recent momentum.
It’s been another strong year for Flaherty when he’s been healthy enough to take the mound. The 25-year-old owns a 3.08 ERA with sharp strikeout and walk rates — 26.1 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively — through 76 innings so far on the season.
In similarly encouraging news for Cards fans, Shildt revealed in tonight’s media session that Dakota Hudson was scratched from a scheduled rehab start in Triple-A Memphis in case the club needs to activate him from the injured list over the next 48 hours (link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
Hudson, who owns a 3.17 ERA in 241 big league innings dating back to his 2018 debut, hasn’t pitched this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery late in the 2020 campaign. He was viewed as a long shot to make it back this year, but he’s now pitched 18 2/3 innings of 0.96 ERA ball across three minor league levels. Hudson pitched five innings in each of his two most recent outings and tossed 68 pitches on Sept. 17 in his lone appearance at the Triple-A level so far. Given that workload, he’d seemingly be an option to make a more conventional spot start and work on a pitch count, if needed, although he could certainly work as a multi-inning relief option as well.