The St. Louis Cardinals are banking on starting pitcher Jack Flaherty to make a strong rebound from two injury-marred seasons.
They hope that process starts Saturday when Flaherty draws the start at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.
"At the end of the day, we are counting on him to be a dude," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. "And he has prepared in a way to do exactly that."
Flaherty was 2-1 with 4.25 ERA last season in nine appearances (eight starts), after recovering from a shoulder injury. He was 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 2021, but he was limited to 17 appearances (15 starts) by an oblique strain that season.
Back in 2019, Flaherty was 11-8 with 2.75 ERA and could become a difference-maker for the Cardinals if he can regain his previous top-of-the-rotation form.
"I mean, I'll take that," Flaherty said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's one of those things that you look for, you want that. You want it to fall on your shoulders a little bit."
Flaherty has never pitched against the Blue Jays. He will need to deal with the high-octane Toronto offense that opened the season with a 10-9 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday.
The Blue Jays' offensive attack sported plenty of standouts from George Springer (5-for-6, four runs) to Bo Bichette (4-for-6, two runs scored), Matt Chapman (3-for-5) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (2-for-4, three RBIs).
Toronto erased 6-5, 7-6 and 9-8 deficits to outlast the Cardinals.
"Normally, when you go through that situation and you respond every time the other team scores, it shows courage and what we can do as a team overall," said Blue Jays outfielder Daulton Varsho, who drove in the team's first run of the season on a first-inning double in his first at-bat with the franchise. "It's just a lot of fun playing that type of baseball, because we can do a lot of things other teams can't."
The Blue Jays manufactured the game-winning run when Kevin Kiermaier went from first to third on Springer's game-tying single in the ninth inning and then scored on a sacrifice fly from Guerrero.
"It just lets us know that everything we've talked about, everything we've preached, it matters," Springer said. "Stuff like that doesn't show up in a box score. It's a long year. It's hard to do it all the time, but that's the style of game that everyone in there expects to play."
Kevin Gausman, who was 12-10 with a 3.35 ERA last season, will draw the start for Toronto. He went 1-1 with a 4.22 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals last season and is 1-4 with a 4.05 ERA in nine career games against St. Louis, including five starts.
Gausman could face a Cardinals lineup missing catcher Willson Contreras, who departed Thursday's game with a contusion after reliever Jordan Hicks hit him in the knee with a fastball while he was crouched behind the plate. Contreras had an MRI exam, which came back clean.
Contreras went 2-for-4 with two runs scored in his Cardinals debut. Andrew Knizner replaced him.
"Any time a new shiny toy gets bruised up it's not cool," Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas said. "He was hitting the ball well, had some big hits for us. He was catching a good game and he threw a guy out. It stinks, but we've got extremely capable catchers in this clubhouse with Knizner."
--Field Level Media