JUPITER, Fla. — Regardless of what's ahead for Jack Flaherty and whether he's needed in the majors to start the season or positioned as the Class AAA Memphis ace, the Cardinals are growing increasingly confident of how close he is to be a fixture for them.
It's at his fingertips.
Flashing a stronger and more diverse array of pitches that he had to begin last year and that he has had this spring, Flaherty struck out seven in four innings of work and became the first Cardinals pitcher to throw a 70th pitch a game this spring. Although the young righthander said he felt like he was "fighting myself early," the command of his sinker, break on his curve, and overall sense of four pitches was clear as he faced the Marlins.
"I'm more comfortable with everything, more feel," Flaherty said. "I have a feel for more how everything os going to come out of my hand, the way everything is going to move."
Manager Mike Matheny called him "a different pitcher."
He expanded on that by suggesting that Flaherty has just added depth to his game with additional pitches and uses for his pitches.
The Cardinals opened a 3-0 lead in the game, and then saw the Marlins rally to tie the game. Eventually they would take the lead. Andrew Knizner tied the game, 4-4, with a solo home run.
During the eighth inning, the Marlins signaled to the Cardinals dugout with two raised hands flashing five fingers. That's universal for: 10 innings? Matheny ran his hand against his neck. That's universal for: No pitching, can't go 10. So the game was tied, 4-4, after nine. It's the Cardinals second tie of the spring schedule.
Other notes from the game:
• Jose Martinez said after the game that his groin injury was "nothing to worry about." It happened in the weight room before the game, and it did not limit his on-field activities. The Cardinals didn't want to push him, and he said he'll be back, full go, on Wednesday. "Good tomorrow," he said.
• Oscar Mercado stole two bases as a pinch-runner in the top of the ninth inning. "He's fearless," Matheny said.
• The Cardinals stole home for the second time in two days, and they tried for a third time. Had replay been available they would have challenged the call at home and possibly found that Kolten Wong was safe. Matheny said he's always going to challenge a call at home if it's that close because a run is at stake.
• Wong stole his fifth base of spring. He had eight total last season.
• Luke Gregerson was available to pitch but not needed in the game, and the Cardinals don't want Sam Tuivailala going two innings just yet. He likely will before the team leaves spring training.
• Knizner's home run was his second of spring and it came on a 1-1 count.
• Marlins starter Brett Graves left the game with an oblique strain. The pitcher, a St. Louis-area native and former Mizzou standout, is a Rule 5 pick for Miami. He did not complete the first inning.
The Cardinals have a B-game set for Field 1 at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday St. Louis time, or soon after. The B-game will be the first appearance of Brett Cecil and Jason Motte is also scheduled to appear. The Marlins have one more inning of pitching than the Cardinals, so the B-game could last seven or eight innings, depending on how the game goes. The rules for such things will be, let's say, casual.