Cardinals’ righty Jack Flaherty missed today’s camp activities and is undergoing medical evaluation on his throwing shoulder, per Derrick S. Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Although further details won’t be known until the review is completed, this is surely a worrying sign for the Cardinals and their fans. After developing into a front-of-the-rotation starter in 2018 and 2019, Flaherty took a step back in 2020 and then missed significant time due to injuries last year.
In that 2018-19 stretch, Flaherty made 61 starts, logging 347 1/3 innings with a 3.01 ERA, 29.8% strikeout rate and 8.2% walk rate. In the shortened 2020 campaign, he had a 4.91 ERA, 28.8% strikeout rate and 8.1% walk rate in the small sample of 40 1/3 innings. Last year, though he dropped his ERA to 3.22, his strikeouts also faded, dropping to 26.4%. In June, he went on the IL due to an oblique injury. Though he was able to return in August, he returned to the IL a few weeks later with a right shoulder strain. He did return from that injury after about a month, but only made three short appearances towards the end of the season. All told, he was only able to throw 78 1/3 innings on the year.
It now seems possible that the shoulder injury which plagued him last year might not be fully healthy, putting a significant dent in the St. Louis rotation. Flaherty was projected to be joined by Adam Wainwright, Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson. Mikolas and Hudson are also unknown quantities this year, having each dealt with injuries last year themselves. If Flaherty or anyone else needs to miss some time, the club will have to consider other options. Drew VerHagen was just signed after a successful two-year stint in Japan. At the time of the signing, team president John Mozeliak suggested VerHagen could compete for a job in either the rotation of the bullpen. Zach McAllister and Aaron Brooks have recently signed minor league deals with the club. There’s depth options such as Jake Woodford and Johan Oviedo, as well as prospects like Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson. There has been some talk of Alex Reyes or Jordan Hicks moving from the bullpen to the rotation, though Mozeliak threw some cold water on that idea recently. If the club is unsatisfied with those in-house options, there are still free agents available due to the lockout pushing transactions into Spring Training. Some of the top options still unsigned include Johnny Cueto, Michael Pineda and Zack Greinke.