It’s time. The moment that fans of the St. Louis Cardinals have waiting for since the final at-bat of the COVID-19 centered 2020 season. On Sunday, the Cardinals faced off against the Washington Nationals, a familiar foe.
Same birds, same story
It’s clear that Jack Flaherty has plans to prove to any naysayers that his dominating 2019 season was no fluke. The 25-year-old took the mound for the Redbirds for the first game of Spring Training and will again on April 1, 2021 for the first game of the regular season.
In his 2020 season per FanGraphs, Flaherty finished with 0.6 WAR and an ERA of 4.91 in nine games and 40.1 innings pitched. Which is honestly a small sample of what could have been without a pandemic surging season.
Of course, his first appearance of 2021 wasn’t exactly something to write home about. While speaking with media, Flaherty used the words “terrible” and “horrible” to describe his outing. And if fans watched, they wouldn’t deny his sincere honesty. He almost lasted for two innings but with his head hung low he headed to the dugout.
With the new spring-training rule that allows a team to end a frame if the pitcher has thrown ~20 pitches in an innings — the Cardinals decided the ace had had enough at 23.
Eventually Josh Bell walked on a 3-2 pitch that Flaherty thought was a strike and on the play Yadier Molina threw out a runner at second for what would have been the third out. Which left many at home and at the game confused.
Flaherty’s short start allowed rookie Tommy Parsons an opportunity to standout. Parsons entered with the bases loaded and one out, retiring three of the four hitters he faced, allowing only a run-scoring single. The 25-year-old who was once an undrafted free agent in 2018 struck out two of the four men he faced.
Alex Reyes sailed through his inning, which is always refreshing to see. If Reyes can continue to stay healthy — he will be a vital piece of the Cardinal bullpen. Giovanny Gallegos superbly whiffed two of the three hitters he faced and Genesis Cabrera recorded two outs quickly before allowing a run-scoring double with two out.
Also worth noting: John Gant, who is competing for the one vacancy in the starting rotation looked sharp and energized on Sunday. Gant fired off a pair of scoreless innings.
Around the bases
With strong defensive plays by left fielder Tyler O’Neill, shortstop Edmundo Sosa, catcher Yadier Molina and young third baseman Nolan Gorman — the Redbirds looked sharp despite the 4-4 tie against the Nationals.
Harrison Bader, who is in constant “prove-em wrong” mode, doubled in a run for the Cardinals. Bader had one of the Cardinals’ two hits in 10 at-bats with a man in scoring position while O’Neill had a single to with a man at second and two out in the fourth. Unfortunately, Andrew Knizner would be thrown out at the place by former Chicago Cub Kyle Schwarber. It’s always that guy.
A normal head-scratcher for St. Louis spectators.
Arenado’s first day
While there were standing ovations in Nolan Arenado’s spring training debut with the Cardinals, the newcomer wanted to do more for his club.
“It’s hard to explain, you go into those games and you want to be ready to go but spring training a lot of us aren’t ready to go and my timing’s not there yet,” Arenado told media on Sunday. “It’s going to take some time.”
The bases were loaded when Arenado came up in the first, before a wild pitch scored a run. He went on to strike out on a checked swing, which left runners at second and third. And in his second at-bat Arenado flew out to center before coming out of the game. But fans continued rejoice — after all, St. Louis finally got their man.