Maybe John Mozeliak and starter Jack Flaherty should start holding joint press conferences for right-hander injury updates in the future.
Or with how this trend plays out, perhaps lean into the drama and turn this saga into a must-watch Bally Sports Midwest special, one complete with a debate-style setup.
Mozeliak could start the segment by offering Flaherty’s latest health update from his perspective.
Flaherty would then get two minutes for a rebuttal.
Eventually, the two might agree that it’s best to blame the media – even if those who know better don’t buy it.
What should have been a fairly simple update on a serious topic — Flaherty’s last stint on the disabled list — became Monday afternoon the most recent example of Flaherty and the baseball operations chief reading from different pages.
It’s been just over three months since the two chiefs clashed over the characterization of the injury that put Flaherty on the injured list in the first place.
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This spring training feud involved Mozeliak revealing to the world that Flaherty had for seasons pitched with a small tear in his anterior and posterior upper labrum, more commonly referred to as a SLAP tear. Flaherty called the revelation of this information “interesting” at the time and pointed out that the right shoulder bursitis he has spent much of this season working up was linked to issues with his mechanics.
Flaherty made his comeback after the setback to Pittsburgh at home on June 15, and now he’s back on the injured list after manager Oliver Marmol described the right-hander feeling a knockout sensation. After allowing five earned runs in six combined innings in his first two starts, he was lifted after two scoreless but laborious innings in what became Sunday’s 6-5 series loss to the Cubs at home.
“It was just tight,” Flaherty said Monday in his first backhand remarks, before meeting with doctors. “It’s just one of those things that it’s probably not smart to keep pushing. It was tight, so we closed it. He probably could have kept throwing, kept going. But in the end of the day, it was a bit like: Why?
A brief comeback that left the Cardinals locked in a rubber game against a rival and led to a heavy bullpen workload during a hellish stretch of the schedule has raised doubts from the front office. The original plan for Flaherty’s return to the majors, Mozeliak recalled Monday, called for Flaherty to go on three more starts in juvenile rehab. Flaherty advocated making earlier starts for the Cardinals. He felt good. He felt ready. The team agreed to modify the initial plan.
“If you ask what your guess would be that we could have extended it longer on the rehab mission,” Mozeliak said during a lengthy chat Monday.
“A lot of it is based on the feedback you get from the athlete,” Mozeliak added. “And at the time it was, he was very optimistic about where he was. Internally, we discussed it. In the end, it’s not our decision. We made a plan. The plan was deviated. And here we are.”
Teams cannot force players to accept rehab assignments. Teams decide when players are activated. This appears to be the case of a team being swayed by a player’s opinion of a situation suggesting that the player perhaps should have stuck with the original plan.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Flaherty said. “I know what you (journalists) are looking for. You are obviously looking for someone to blame. This is what you must do. Why would anyone change anything? Everything felt good. We did everything the right way. The training staff did everything right. The organization did everything right. It’s unfortunate what happened. We did everything right. We were honest with each other throughout the process. Everything felt good.
“I went out and didn’t throw the first two (starts) well, but yesterday I went out and threw a lot better, executing a lot better in the first inning. I went around a mistake and made my own mistake the next round. I was able to circle around that and pitch when I needed to. I was finally getting into a groove. I just didn’t feel good, like 100%.”
Flaherty was adamant that he will pitch again this season, although a return before the All-Star break seems unlikely, and there are just 65 games left after that break.
It’s just the latest twist for a star pitcher and a front office that can make the seemingly mundane a debate.
“At the end of the day, we sat in this room and talked about what Jack wanted, what we wanted, and what was best to move on,” Marmol said. “And we left the room with a decision. Alright, that’s what we’ll do. It worked ? No. Could this have happened in Triple A? Yes. We can guess, but the reality is that he’s back on the IL.
Stay tuned for the next episode.