When a young pitcher is first called up to the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s very common for them to defer to catcher Yadier Molina and his game plan for when they’re on the mound. Then as time goes on, they begin to feel more comfortable at adding their own twist to how the game is called.
Now entering his second season, Jack Flaherty is beginning to call upon on his own experience to work in tandem with Molina.
“You do have to understand–if you shake, but you have the conviction behind something and it doesn’t work out, it’s on you,” Flaherty said. “There’s not excuses for it. That’s what you wanted to throw, you were convicted behind it and you’re going to be able to live with it better than if you threw something just because somebody called it. Regardless if it’s Yadi or any other catcher, ‘oh he called it so I threw it’. For me, I’m going to throw the pitch that I believe in on that one.”
The respect and appreciation for Molina is as strong as ever, as Flaherty pointed to the many things that Yadi does behind the scenes which provide additional confidence for a pitcher. But in his last outing, Flaherty detailed that he allowed a first inning hit on a pitch that he had shaken off his battery mate. But it was a decision he still felt good about.
“You’ve gotta own it and you’ve gotta take it,” Flaherty said. “I trust him, but knowing that whatever pitch is called and whatever I want to throw, I have to have conviction behind it. So even if he calls it, if I don’t have the conviction behind it, there’s no reason for me to throw it.
“Even if he’s calling the right pitch, if I’m not convicted behind it–if I’m not 100% locked in to whatever he’s called, then I shouldn’t throw it. I need to shake to something else or step off, regroup and find a way to be convicted in it. That’s just one of those things that I’ve got to believe in everything that I’m throwing.”
The conviction for each pitch comes with the feel Flaherty has for each pitch on a given night, as well as the game that he calling along with Molina in his own mind. Depending on the flow of the game, the two will talk between each inning. Other nights they may not speak at all during the game.
“A lot of it is mentality where you may not have a feel for a certain pitch as the game goes on, but believing it’s going to be there,” Flaherty said. “Like, you get on the mound and you get two strikes and you are set on throwing a certain pitch and he calls something else. And you shake. And he calls something else and you shake. And he calls something else and you shake. You get tired of shaking and then you throw a pitch you don’t want to throw and now you’re out there giving up a double because you weren’t convicted and you just got tired of it. Having that mental and physical conviction–behind whatever pitch it is, regardless of feel or regardless of anything else, just having that trust and belief in whatever you’re going to throw on that certain pitch.”
Besides the natural maturation process that Flaherty is going through, he’s also applying the lessons taught from the likes of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. He also refers to a quote Miles Mikolas shared this spring.
“Any pitch, any count, any time, any where, and don’t lean on my dish–it’s just that type of conviction,” Flaherty shared. “It doesn’t matter, it can be 3-0 and you call my worst pitch but convincing yourself of having that conviction. I’m going to throw this for a strike. I’m going to throw this where I want to. Just be whole-heartedly convicted behind it. Even if you don’t throw it where you want to, odds are it’s going to work out better than if you throw something that you’re not, that you don’t believe in.”
Flaherty (1-0, 2.93 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season tonight for the Cardinals and his second at Miller Park against Milwaukee. He has allowed just one run, a solo homer to Joc Pederson, in his last 11.0 innings pitched.
photo credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com