Cardinals place ace Jack Flaherty on IL with oblique injury

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty (22) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday, May 31, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

ST. LOUIS–The St. Louis Cardinals announced Tuesday that pitcher Jack Flaherty, who leads the National League with 8 wins, will be placed on the 10-day injured with an oblique injury.

“It’s not a minimal situation. It’s a real strain/tear,” Manager Mike Shildt said before Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers,” saying the club is still in an “exploratory phase”. Johan Oviedo will be recalled from Memphis in the near-term.

Flaherty said Monday night he felt a strain on his left side while pitching in the bottom of the fifth against the Dodgers, then felt it again in at-bat the following inning.

After a review Monday night, more testing and imaging had been slated for Tuesday. Manager Mike Shildt said after Monday night’s game that it was too soon to speculate if Flaherty would be able to make his next scheduled start.

Losing Flaherty (8-1, 2.90 ERA) is a large blow to a rotation that has already struggled for long stretches to pitch deep into games, putting additional strain on a bullpen that was seen as a strength coming into the season.

Just last week, Miles Mikolas was put on the 60-day DL after leaving his first start of the season with what was deemed forearm tightness related to his right flexor tendon.

The Cardinals have resorted to a quasi-six man rotation in recent weeks as the Cardinals have played or are currently playing 17 straight games without a day off, recalling pitcher Oviedo earlier this season without the promising results he produced when called up in 2020.

John Gant and Daniel Ponce de Leon, were thought to be short-term answers for the rotation when the season started and the Cardinals waited for Mikolas, and KK Kim, who faced late spring training back troubles, to be ready in May. Gant has also had issues getting deep into games, but has developed a habit of escaping trouble en route to a 4-3, 1.81 ERA heading into Tuesday’s start against the Dodgers.

Ponce de Leon was unable to hold down his spot in the rotation but has since re-emerged in higher leverage situations in the bullpen. Shildt didn’t discount the possibility Tuesday that Ponce de Leon and Jake Woodford could be potential rotation options who exist on the current roster. The team’s current closer, Alex Reyes, was a spring training bright spot as a starter, and is seen as a top of the rotation type possibly as soon as next season, but Reyes has also excelled as the team’s closer. What began the season as something of a safety valve as Jordan Hicks was making is way back from elbow surgery and last season’s opt-out turned into a necessity to keep Reyes in the closing role, especially as Hicks has gone down with elbow soreness in 2021.

Another reliever with starting potential, Genesis Cabrera, has joined Reyes and Giovanny Gallegos as Shildt’s trio for best leverage-late inning situations, and would be difficult to stretch out on the fly, for one thing, and tough to replace in the bullpen for another.

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