CHICAGO — The Cardinals took such a measured, measured and patient approach to bringing Jack Flaherty back from shoulder pain that ended his spring training before it began that three innings of work won’t affect months of planning.
But if it was three innings, it came on Sunday.
In his first rehab start — his first appearance in competition this season — Flaherty retired all nine batters he faced on 30 pitches for Class AA Springfield. The former opening-day starter, who wore the No. 50 for the S-Cards, touched 96 mph with his fastball in the first inning and hit a total of three. Based on how he recovers Monday, the Cardinals will plan his next start and target him at least 60 pitches. That would put Flaherty (shoulder bursitis) on track to return to the rotation by the end of the month.
The right-hander started a day of significant progress for Cardinals in the comeback. A day after hitting the winning homer in the ninth inning for Triple-A Memphis, Tyler O’Neill (shoulder) played the entire game in left field. He hits .385 (5 for 13) on his rehab effort. Dylan Carlson (torn hamstring) played five innings on right Saturday and seven in fielding on Sunday. Both players are rated on how they feel on the Monday after a weekend of play.
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It’s possible that one or both fielders will join the team in Tampa Bay this week.
“I think everything comes into play from here,” said manager Oliver Marmol.
The Cardinals start Tuesday with Dakota Hudson taking on the Rays to open the interleague series. It has yet to be determined if Miles Mikolas will start Wednesday or possibly a bullpen arm like left Zack Thompson. The Cardinals want to give Mikolas an extra day of rest after consecutive 100-pitch slogs and start it Thursday.
Dickerson promoted to IL, reliever Walsh
The discomfort Corey Dickerson felt in the second inning of Saturday’s first game was diagnosed as a minor tear in his left calf, the outfielder could be out for at least two weeks. The injury came a day after he hit his first two home runs of the season in Friday’s blowout win.
To end the four-day, five-game streak, the Cardinals needed to promote Jake Walsh from Class AAA Memphis before they could bat. The right-hander was newly eligible to return to the majors after spending the minimum 15 days in the minors.
The Cardinals also returned Jake Woodford to the Triple-A roster. The right-hander spent Saturday as the 27th man in the squad. He will continue to maintain arm strength in Memphis.
Machado: Opponents should celebrate Pujols
San Diego infielder Manny Machado stood by his makeshift locker in the Busch Stadium spectators’ clubhouse last week and marveled at the sight of Albert Pujols back in a Cardinals jersey at the end of his career. But he had a question – well, more of a criticism actually.
“Tell you what,” he said. “It’s kind of (expletive) that the teams aren’t giving him a farewell tour. I’ll tell you right away. Why? Albert was the best player of our generation that has ever played this game and to see him doing the things he does – I mean, it’s just amazing. It is very special that St. Louis has given him the opportunity to come back here and complete his career as a cardinal.”
To answer Machado’s question, both San Francisco and the New York Mets had in-game recognitions and odes for Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina, who retires at the end of the season. The Cardinals have yet to make their final visit to divisional opponents, but will make the tandem’s final trips to Tampa, Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta next month. San Diego will have a tribute planned for the cardinals’ visit in September, Machado assured. Other future Hall of Famers such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and David Ortiz were celebrated with gifts at the final stops of their final seasons.
Pujols received a lot of applause. Before Pujol’s Paul Molitor with his 3,319. goals and tying Cal Ripken Jr. for the eighth-most games in MLB history (3,001), he received an ovation on Sunday for sending souvenir after souvenir into the Wrigley Field grandstands during batting practice.
Graceffo never fails to impress
Right-hander Gordon Graceffo, lauded by big-league coaches for his cameo in spring practice, has, like his 100-mile fastball, not slowed an iota. The Class AA starter became the first pitcher to win the organization’s Pitcher of the Month award in consecutive months since the Bud Smith season in 2000. At High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield, Graceffo had five quality starts and a 1.45 ERA with 30 strikeouts and three walks in 31 innings this May.
Outfielder Alec Burleson won the Player of the Month award for batting .357 and slugging .592 with five home runs, 24 RBIs and 16 runs in 24 games at Class AAA Memphis.
Jordan Hicks (forearm strain) played catch back in St. Louis while continuing to throw his throwing program early and return to the mound. Hicks will have at least another week to lengthen his throws and increase their intensity before moving on to a bullpen session. … Atlanta picked infielder Kramer Robertson by waivers. The Cardinals designated the LSU grad for deployment earlier this week. … Saturday’s game temporarily hung on Edmundo Sosa missing third base and being forced to retire rather than hit the winning run. Sosa missed base while trying to save his left ankle from ongoing pain, something that disrupted his stride. … Genesis Cabrera was available for a single, low-key inning on Saturday because of a split nail on his pitching hand. The left-hander had a problem with his finger and fixes it with an acrylic nail. The Cardinals avoided action in the doubleheader, allowing Cabrera to put up several innings if needed on Sunday.