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Transaction Analysis 8/25/21: Flaherty Back to IL, Fernandez Recalled

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

“Rise and shine, campers! And don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s cold out there today.”

“It’s cold out there every day, what is this Miami Beach?”

“Not hardly!”

Groundhog Day (1993)

“He’ll go on the IL. It looks like the imaging is mostly negative, which is positive...But initial reports and imaging are favorable in that there are no structural issues...

Mike Shildt, 8/25/21 pre-game presser

The Cards announced the following transaction in advance of today’s game against the Tigers:

8/25/21: Placed RHP Jack Flaherty on the 10-day IL (right shoulder strain). Recalled RHP Junior Fernandez from the 10-day IL.

If you watched last night’s game you could tell early on that Jack didn’t have his best stuff. The problem began in the 2nd inning, when Jack issued three walks, allowed two runs and took 29 pitches to get out of the inning. His second run allowed resulted from his walking the pitcher Casey Mize—who was making his first ever plate appearance—on four pitches with the bases loaded. Jack had trouble getting his fastball over, and he was visibly frustrated. At first, one could be forgiven for thinking it was just one of those days. But in the third inning, Jack’s fastball velocity was several ticks down 87-88 mph, and he gave up back-to-back home runs to Robbie Grossman and Miguel Cabrera to start the frame, the latter on a 79 mph hanging slider. The training staff came out to look at Jack, and removed him in favor of Daniel Ponce de Leon.

Jack explained after the game that his shoulder was sore before the game, but he didn’t interpret it as anything other than normal soreness a pitcher usually experiences, and believed he could pitch through it. How long he will be out is anyone’s guess. The Cards beat the Tigers today in extra innings. As I write this, the Reds are playing the Brewers and losing 1-0. The Padres play the Dodgers during the late shift tonight. The Reds are currently in the lead for the 2nd wild card spot, the Padres are 1 game back, and the Cards are 4 games back. If the Reds lose, the Cards will be 3.5 games back. While I don’t blame anyone for not being optimistic, it’s not over yet.

According to Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat, Shildt acknowledged the possibility that Flaherty could be out for the season, but that it was too early to tell. By rule, he must be out until Saturday, September 4th. Given that he missed about 3 months with an oblique problem, and will need to come back slowly from any temporary shutdown, I would expect Jack to miss at least three turns. If the Cards are out of it, then that will probably be it. If the club is still within a couple of games of making the playoffs, and it is determined that Jack could go for about 5 innings and pitch effectively, then we might see him reinstated from the injured list. The most important thing is that Jack is healthy for 2022, and if the club isn’t 100% convinced that he could pitch healthy, effective innings that could get the clubs into the playoffs, it wouldn’t be worth it. To be fair, it might not even be worth it even if he could.

Erica Weston reported live from today’s game that Shildt said that KK is a candidate to replace Flaherty in the rotation, a spot which comes up on Monday, August 30th against the Reds. When John Mozeliak was asked about the rotation, he told the media “Right now, I do think we have innings on this roster.” All of that is legalese for “KK will be in the rotation.” It’s an odd turn of events, but one way to look at it is that the club said he would need at least another rehab start before returning to the rotation, and he pitched 2.2 innings the same night as Jack, and threw 46 pitches. That’s not the type of ramp-up that either Jack or Miles Mikolas had, but KK wasn’t hurt as bad as they were. Perhaps the club will determine that yesterday’s appearance, plus the work leading up to August 30th will allow him to pitch 3 to 4 innings, and that will suffice.

Based on the available evidence, KK is likely what you’ll get for however long he can go, at least for the first start. Wade LeBlanc is still out with his own elbow problem, and while there has been talk about an early September return, he hasn’t even had a rehab assignment yet. The club won’t use Ponce, and I think it’s clear that if they really wanted Johan Oviedo or Jake Woodford to start anymore this season, they wouldn’t have gone out and got J.A. Happ and Jon Lester. You can forget about Matthew Liberatore, as the Cards don’t have to protect him from the Rule 5 draft until November of 2022. By the time Jack’s rotation spot comes around the second time, rosters will have been expanded to 28 players, and you can bet the farm that the club will grab two additional pitchers for long relief protection.