Division Series on the line with Game 5

Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty pitches during Game 5 of the NLDS in Atlanta. (Post-Dispatch photo by Robert Cohen)


It depends in part as to whether the strength in Carlos Martinez’s right shoulder is back (Martinez says he is). Thus, the Cardinals may have another ace to go with Jack Flaherty if Martinez has recovered the form that made him a National League All-Star in 2015 and 2017. He may be needed more in the bullpen at the start of the season if Giovanny Gallegos isn’t ready. 

Then there is righthander Dakota Hudson, whose 16 wins were highest for any rookie in 2019. Miles Mikolas, who would have missed the start of the original schedule because of a flexor tendon issue, is likely to return nearly full-bore.

Mikolas may not be the 18-4 pitcher he was in 2018 after coming back from Japan, but he probably is better than the 9-14 mark he put up last season.

Adam Wainwright, at age 38, looked good both in the spring and in the summer. The Cardinals also could start lefthander Kwang Hyun Kim, a South Korean free agent who was signed to a two-year deal. And in the wings is righthander Daniel Ponce de Leon, who was impressive at times this past season and even more so in spring training. Whichever of that latter tandem is not starting could be a key member of the bullpen.

Kim would have no trouble picking up innings. The 31-year-old logged 190 1/3 innings in the Korean Baseball Organization last year while making 30 starts.

It all begins, though, with the 24-year-old Flaherty, who posted a remarkable 0.91 ERA in the second half and finished at 2.75, meriting a fourth-place nod in the National League Cy Young voting. In five of his eight losses, which included a 1-0 defeat at San Francisco when he had a no-hitter into the seventh, Flaherty received zero runs of support. He has the ability, he has the determination, and like many of the greats, he has the swagger.

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