St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dakota Hudson (43) delivers a pitch during Cardinals summer camp at Busch Stadium on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Photo by Chris Kohley, ckohley@post-dispatch.com

To defend their division championship, the Cardinals again will lean on their pitching staff, especially the rotation. Five starters return, all familiar faces, and a lefty has been shuffled into the mix. If anyone falters, the Cardinals can draw on Daniel Ponce de Leon or Austin Gomber.

Only the Dodgers’ rotation had a better set of hands in 2019, and with an uncertain offense, these are the six pitchers the Cardinals are counting on for an encore. Different season. Same deal.

JACK FLAHERTY, RHP

A rising ace, Flaherty’s 433 strikeouts in his first 67 games are the most by a young pitcher in Cardinals history, 12th-most in majors since 1908.

MILES MIKOLAS, RHP

With a taste for wide-brim hats and bolo ties, he’s still more dealer than gambler, but always has a strike up his sleeve. No need to reshuffle rotation as he’s recovered from strained forearm.

ADAM WAINWRIGHT, RHP

King of the curve, veteran threw a higher percentage of “Uncle Charlies” than any pitcher in the NL. Flipped 1,127 curves to his 1,149 fastballs in 2019.

DAKOTA HUDSON, RHP

Greediest grounder-getter in the majors, Hudson benefited from defense shifting around the diamond. His power sinker has the game’s highest groundball rate since his pro debut.

KWANG HYUN KIM, LHP

One of Korea’s steadiest starters, lefty has a feel for pitching in spades. His savviness, slider and deception could give Cardinals their first regular lefty since 2016.

CARLOS MARTINEZ, RHP

A wild card after unreliable health and results repurposed him as closer, All-Star’s 3.22 ERA since becoming a starter in 2015 ranks 11th for active players.

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