Flaherty is tabbed as a potential ace of the Cardinals' staff by team beat writer Anne Rogers, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. The right-hander was arguably already worthy of the title during the second half of last season, when he posted an 0.91 ERA, .142 BAA and 124:23 K:BB across 99.1 post-All-Star-break frames. Flaherty ultimately finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting, and he was set for an Opening Day start before play was suspended. Rogers notes the one missing component for Flaherty's ascension to the next level is consistency, as the 24-year-old posted an elevated 4.64 ERA in the first half of the 2019 campaign. As such, Flaherty emphasized through the offseason and spring training that staying strong from start to finish was his main focus coming into 2020, and he'll still look to make good on that vow during what projects to be an abbreviated season.
Flaherty is likely to throw at least 45 pitches in twice-a-week bullpen sessions while Grapefruit League play remains suspended, Anne Rogers of MLB.com reports. Rogers reports manager Mike Shildt and his staff are in the process of setting up a maintenance program for the team's starting pitchers to follow during the suspension of spring training. The templates will be individualized to an extent for each player, but Flaherty's is likely to fall approximately within the 45-pitch, twice-a-week guideline. The right-hander will open the 2020 season as the ace of the staff and had already worked up to 68 pitches in his most recent start Tuesday, his fourth in Grapefruit League action.
Flaherty fired three scoreless innings in a Grapefruit League win over the Red Sox on Tuesday, allowing three hits and two walks while recording five strikeouts. The right-hander lowered his spring ERA to 3.09 in what was his fourth start of Grapefruit League play, but Zachary Silver of MLB.com reports the right-hander was actually frustrated with allowing five runners to reach base during the 68-pitch outing. The biggest source of Flaherty's ire was the second inning, when he surrendered two singles and a walk before snuffing out the threat with an impressive strikeout of Andrew Benintendi. Flaherty is likely to push his pitch count into the 75-80 range at minimum in his next spring start, projected for Sunday or Monday if he remains on his normal schedule.
Flaherty opened Saturday's 2-0 Grapefruit League win over the Mets and fired two scoreless innings during which he allowed two hits and recorded three strikeouts. Just named the Opening Day starter, Flaherty put on a performance worthy of the honor against a Mets lineup with several regulars. The right-hander worked around a one-out J.D. Davis double in the first with strikeouts of Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith before getting through a relatively uneventful second inning during which he yielded only a single to Luis Guillorme. Flaherty will build his innings/pitch count up over subsequent spring outings ahead of his aforementioned March 26 date with the Reds to kick off the 2020 regular season.
Flaherty was confirmed as the starter for Opening Day on Saturday, Anne Rogers of MLB.com reports. Manager Mike Shildt declined to confirm Flaherty as the starter for Opening Day on Wednesday, but he gave the confirmation Saturday ahead of his scheduled start in the Grapefruit League opener. The 24-year-old was dominant last season, logging a 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 196.1 innings in 2019.
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