The Cardinals announced they’ve reinstated Jack Flaherty from the 60-day injured list. He’s set to make his season debut tonight against the Pirates. In corresponding moves, the Cards optioned lefty Packy Naughton to Triple-A Memphis and designated catcher Ali Sánchez for assignment. Additionally, left-hander Matthew Liberatore has been sent back to Memphis after being added as the 27th man for yesterday’s doubleheader.
Flaherty went down in Spring Training with shoulder bursitis, an issue that required platelet-rich plasma treatment. He was shut down from throwing for a few weeks and the club gradually built him back into game shape once he was healthy enough to pick up a ball. That’s hardly a surprise considering the righty missed a month last season due to a shoulder strain (in addition to an extended absence because of an oblique issue). Flaherty told reporters in March he’s pitched through a small labrum tear for a while.
The 26-year-old has gotten through a brief rehab stint without incident, however, making a start apiece with Double-A Springfield and Memphis. He tossed 59 pitches last Friday, and manager Oli Marmol figures to play things cautiously with his pitch count in the early going. It’s unlikely Flaherty will toss 100+ pitches out of the gate, but he’ll offer an immediate boon nonetheless to a rotation without Steven Matz. The left-hander has been on the injured list since May 23 due to a shoulder impingement, and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters yesterday he recently underwent a second cortisone injection to manage continued discomfort (via John Denton of MLB.com).
Flaherty is one of the game’s top starters, owner of a 3.34 ERA in just under 500 career innings. He has punched out a strong 28.7% of opposing batters on the back of an excellent 13.3% swinging strike rate. It was more of the same last season when Flaherty was on the mound, as he pitched to a 3.22 ERA with a 26.4% strikeout percentage across 17 outings. He’ll join Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson among the top four in the starting staff.
Sánchez loses his spot on the 40-man roster to accommodate Flaherty’s return. The 25-year-old backstop has been on the 40-man since being acquired from the Mets in February 2021, but he’s only appeared in two games with the big league club. Sánchez has spent the majority of his time in the organization on optional assignment to Memphis, where he’s hitting .255/.333/.409 through 123 plate appearances this season.
The Cardinals will have a week to trade Sánchez or look to run him through waivers. He’s never been an impact offensive player, but scouting reports praised his defense during his time climbing the New York farm system. He’s in his final option year, so another club could stash him in the upper minors for the rest of the season if they were to devote him a spot on the 40-man roster.