UPDATE: Following the game on Monday night, Mike Matheny announced Jack Flaherty will get the nod for Saturday’s start.
The official announcement has yet to be made, but the St. Louis Cardinals have their internal plan in place for who will fill the open spot in the rotation for Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh.
“We have an idea,” confirmed General Manager Michael Girsch. “We’re going to let things play out the next couple of days and make sure that we never commit to things we can avoid committing to for as long as possible, but yeah, we have a plan.”
The opening developed when Adam Wainwright was placed on the 10-day disabled list. Rather than call-up another starter, the decision was made to move the rotation up a full day and go with an extra reliever. That squares away the schedule until Saturday.
“There’s three or four Memphis starting pitchers–really, there’s five starting pitchers that are all pitching really well and there’s three or four of them in the mix,” said Girsch.
Among those in the mix are Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber. John Gant is also likely under consideration. All three pitchers are already on the 40-man roster, which Girsch described as “a significant part” of the decision.
The Memphis Redbirds are off today and their pitching rotation has been changed to TBA on their website. Previously, Flaherty was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday followed by Daniel Poncedeleon, Gant, and then Dakota Hudson on Saturday.
Both Hudson and Poncedeleon would have to be added to the 40-man roster, which would result in the Cardinals exposing a player on waivers or having to work out a trade to create space–similar to a few weeks ago when the team added Jordan Hicks and Francisco Pena to the roster. Pitcher Josh Lucas was traded to Oakland and infielder Breyvic Valera to Los Angeles in exchange for other prospects that didn’t have to go on the 40-man.
“It depends on how good the guys that you’ve DFA’d are,” said Girsch of the ease of that type of deal. “The more interest you have in them, the easier it is to find somebody who’s willing to give up something that you’re interested in. In general, they’re not too hard of a deal. They happen pretty fast because by definition that have to happen over the course of only a couple days. Generally, you’re just going through another team’s organization picking off names that would be a good fit for your minor leagues or a good fit for a roster spot that you have open or whatever and try to find someone that we all agree on.”
Holding Gant back a day wouldn’t seem to be of big concern and Gomber, who threw yesterday, would be on regular rest.
“He had a great game yesterday afternoon,” acknowledged Girsch, of the 16 strikeouts Gomber recorded to tie a Memphis franchise record.
Perhaps the most popular choice amongst fans is to see the return of Flaherty, who allowed one run and struck out nine batters over 5.0 innings against Milwaukee earlier this season. He last threw on Thursday and is 3-0 at Memphis with 22 strikeouts in 20.0 innings. He could pitch a reduced amount tomorrow or just throw a side session, but eight days between starts may not be the ideal.
The question was raised if it would be more beneficial to have Flaherty in the Cardinals bullpen instead of the Memphis rotation.
“It’s tough to bring a guy up this early in the season and put him in the bullpen if you want him to be a starter long term,” explained Girsch. “Because if he ends up spending too long in the bullpen this year, he doesn’t have enough innings to where you’re comfortable to build him up for next year.
“It’s a little different for an outfielder to come and spend a few weeks or a month with limited playing time because you can always cycle him back down but because we want Jack to be a starter and we expect him to be a starter, it’s hard to bring him up and have him only pitching one and two inning stints. It’s just hard for sort of his long term career development and everything else. That being said, he’s pitched great. Our starters have pitched pretty well too, right? It’s a situation where we have a guy who deserves to be in the big leagues somewhere. Look, he’s going to be in the big leagues with us at some point this year because barring the unforeseen, no one gets through a season with five starting pitchers so he’ll be back.”
So does that mean it won’t be Flaherty? Or what about Gomber or Gant or one of the other guys?
“We’ve adjusted the Memphis rotation to fit what we want to have happen on Saturday,” said Girsch with a smile. “You guys will figure it out, but we’re just not going to announce it until we need to.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com; Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports