After making his final rehab start in Memphis on Friday night, Jack Flaherty looks ready to return to the St. Louis Cardinals for the stretch run. Could he be what pushes St. Louis over the top?
Jack Flaherty Looked Solid in Memphis
After doing most of his rehab in double-A Springfield, Flaherty ramped it up for one last minor league start. He spent Friday night with triple-A Memphis. The righty looked ready enough to head back to the big leagues. In 5.1 innings, he gave up just one run and struck out three batters.
Flaherty got into a bit of trouble early, but worked out of it. His command is still not where it once was. Still, tonight was a step in the right direction.
If this was indeed his final rehab start before returning to St. Louis, he could be back on an MLB mound by the middle of next week in Cincinnati. That would give him a little more than a month of regular season baseball before the playoffs roll around.
Flaherty Still Isn’t Totally Himself
While the Cardinals pitcher is probably ready to return to the majors, don’t expect to see the ace that he usually looks like. At least not right away. He is going to have some rough starts, or at least some short ones. The key for Flaherty is to slowly work his way back into a groove without re-injuring himself.
By the postseason, he could be back to being a quality starter around the top of the rotation. However, it may be unrealistic to expect him to be the dominant ace that he once was by then.
Is Flaherty the Missing Piece?
The Cardinals have been on a tear as of late. They are currently 17-6 in the month of August. That run has propelled them to a comfortable lead in the NL Central. A couple of deadline additions to the pitching staff in Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery were a huge part of that. They shored up what was one of the team’s biggest weaknesses. St. Louis now looks poised for a postseason run.
Still, the ceiling on their potential in the playoffs feels low. When compared to the top contenders in the National League, the Cardinals pitching staff does not measure up. Their top starter right now is probably Adam Wainwright, though newcomer Montgomery’s case gets stronger with every start. Either of those guys would probably be third at best in the rotation on the Dodgers or the Mets.
Adding Flaherty likely won’t change that much, especially with where he is at right now. If he can at least get back to being a high quality starter, it could be enough for St. Louis to close the gap on the top of the NL. He would give them good enough starting pitching to at least keep them in games when they face the likes of Clayton Kershaw and deGrom.
With the way Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are playing right now, that could be all the Cardinals need.