Cardinals rookie Jack Flaherty, in the course of an 8-9 season with 3.34 earned run average in 2018, was 4-0 in August with a 1.13 ERA but finished a dreary September at 0-3, 5.34.
“I didn’t do the little things right. Strike one. You’ve got to throw strike one. That’s what Miles (Mikolas) did all year long,” said Flaherty on Monday, the final day of the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up, which took place at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch.
“You’ve got to get ahead of guys,” Flaherty said. “Getting in bad counts doesn’t really work out and I kind of figured that out in September. I don’t feel like I ended the season very well. My September was tough.”
But Flaherty has an ace in the hole. Already having been counseled extensively by veteran Adam Wainwright and former Cardinals star Chris Carpenter, who works with pitchers throughout the system now, Flaherty also has made the acquaintance of one Bob Gibson.
Gibson won 251 big-league games and threw 255 complete games. Flaherty has eight of the former and none of the latter. But the two Cardinals righthanders, one of Hall of Fame past and one who has a bright future, have bonded, mostly at Gibson’s behest.
Gibson, now 83, made it known early last season that he would like to meet with Flaherty, 23.
“It was special,” said Flaherty. “When you hear that a guy like that wants to meet you ... you know that’s not something that he does. Ever. I jumped at that opportunity.
“He said he liked what I had. He liked what he saw.”
Flaherty admits “trying to develop that relationship and use it for all that I could.
“I try to reach out whenever I can, if I ever have any questions and he’s pretty good about getting back to me. It’s just special.”
Gibson’s advice is simple.
“He just tells me to work,” Flaherty said. He said, ‘You’re going to get tired at some point, but, at some point, you’re not going to get more tired. You just have to take whatever percentage you’re at and give 100 percent of that.’”
Flaherty said he would be happy to have half the career of Gibson.
“Absolutely. He was unbelievable,” said Flaherty. “He threw nine innings every time.”
Especially in postseason play. Gibson made nine World Series starts, pitching 81 innings, including seven nine-inning complete games and one of 10. His shortest was eight.
“When I first came into the organization, I didn’t really know a whole lot about him,” Flaherty. “I felt I knew a lot about baseball but the more you hear about Bob Gibson, you start wanting to look up and see what he’s done. They changed the rules for him. Like, he was that dominant. You don’t really understand how good he was.”
Flaherty, who was up briefly in 2017 before spending most of this past season in the majors, said he had watched postseason games in October but said, “Didn’t love that. Haven’t loved it the last two years. We sat around the last two years in October and watched these other teams that maybe we feel we’re better than.”
Flaherty had grown up a Dodgers fan, but the Southern California native isn’t much of one anymore, for obvious reasons. His mother, Eileen, has been a bit slower to rid herself of the Dodgers.
Eileen Flaherty was watching the World Series “and kind of getting excited,” said her son. “I said, ‘What have we got going on here? I’m not going to sit here and root for them. I’ll sit here and watch the games with you.’”
BADER WILL BE ALL EARS
The Cardinals’ staff already included coach Willie McGee, a former Cardinals Gold Glove center fielder who liked to play virtually against the wall. This spring, McGee will be joined in camp by former Cardinals Gold Glover Jim Edmonds, who liked to play virtually behind second base. Incumbent Harrison Bader, who may be a Gold Glover himself one day, said he would try to draw from both, although he said he was prone to play deeper.
“I’ve definitely grabbed and gathered a lot of information from both of them,” said Bader, “but I think it’s really important that you provide a number of aspects (to a player), because I kind of do tend to play a little deeper, but who knows? Spring training is a time to obviously get ready, but, to an extent, experiment. So I’m looking forward to working with Jim. Obviously he’s somebody I’ve looked up to my entire life, just as a young baseball player. So the information he is going to give me is going to be invaluable.”
Outfielder Adolis Garcia’s late-season exposure to the major leagues in 2018 resulted in just two hits and seven strikeouts in 17 at-bats and an untimely pratfall as a pinch runner. While carrying the tying run in the eighth inning of a key late-season game with Milwaukee, Garcia fell down between third and home and then was tagged out at the plate as he belatedly tried to slide in.
After the game, Garcia was distraught that he had cost his team the game, but he said his teammates and manager had helped him get over it.
Through a translator, he said, “I obviously felt really bad during the last week of the season because we knew every moment counted for us to get to the postseason. But the fact that my teammates and my manager picked me up and talked to me about it, I was able to overcome it and get over it.
“One of the first things that Mike Shildt told me was that that was one of those things that just happens and don’t worry about it. “It wasn’t your fault,” Shildt told Garcia.