Jack Flaherty on Willson Contreras, Cardinals future, growing up a shortstop and more

Jack Flaherty on Willson Contreras, Cardinals future, growing up a shortstop and more
Jack Flaherty on Willson Contreras, Cardinals future, growing up a shortstop and more

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty is entering perhaps his most critical season of his major-league career.

Jack Flaherty has expressed that this is the healthiest he’s felt in years and team officials are optimistic that it will translate to immediate results on the mound.

Flaherty recently joined The Baseball Insiders podcast with Robert Murray and Adam Weinrib to discuss the 2023 season, what adding Willson Contreras does for the Cardinals, his days playing shortstop, as well as his work with the Boys and Girls club and his brand “Don’t Think.”

Here are some of the highlights from the interview. Some answers have been edited for clarity.

On how he feels after two injury-ridden seasons:

“I didn’t really pitch must last year or the year before. I dealt with the oblique and my shoulder. Going into this year, I’m feeling really good. I’m feeling healthy. That’s just a good place for me to be at. It’s fun to feel good again going into the start of a season. Last year, it was rough with the lockout and dealing with different shoulder stuff the entire offseason.”

What adding Willson Contreras means for the Cardinals:

“Getting to know him a bit. Hearing a little of who he is and what he’s like and talking to different guys around the league to see how he is. … I know he’s going to do a good job with our staff. Our staff prepares really, really well. We’re going to make each other’s job as easy as possible. … I’m looking forward to it. (Yadier Molina) was obviously one of the best ever to do what he does. Willy is new, but it’ll be fun.”

What’s it like watching Paul Goldschmidt on a daily basis?

“Last year, him and Nolan (Arenado) carried us offensively. Not saying guys didn’t do their part. What those guys did offensively was special night in and night out. He’s going to do something, whether he walked twice or getting on base twice, stealing a base here or there. If runners were on, it just felt like he was going to get a hit and drive them in. Same thing with Nolan. What Goldy did was special. It was awesome to see him getting the MVP award because it’s something he deserved.

It was special. The work that he put in day in and day out, the way he goes about his business, the attention that he pays to detail, it carries over to everyone else. You want to be part of that. You want to work like he does. You want to work like Nolan does. You want to be as prepared because you know how much those guys are putting in so you want to make sure you’re on the same type of level.”

We had Lucas Giolito on the podcast a couple weeks ago and he told us about a time where he broke Max Fried’s nose with a pitch in high school. Do you remember this and how it went down?

“Yeah. Oh man. We did a little intra-squad and they were both pitching that day. At that time, Lucas could get a little erratic. He was throwing 95-100 mph as a senior in high school. I was a sophomore and playing shortstop. One pitch got away and you weren’t really sure if it hit him. … It went to the backstop and you weren’t sure if it hit him because you thought it would have gone in another direction. You could just hear Max go, “My nose! My nose!” and he pulled his hand away and there was just blood coming everywhere. You’re like, “All right, this probably isn’t very good.”

He couldn’t feel anything on the nose. It was one of these things where it just felt like it can’t be real. This can’t be real. He comes to school the next day and he’s all bruised up. It grazed his nose — it didn’t hit anything more than that — but it was all bruised up and he had to have all that going on. He toughed it out. Whatever it was — 95, 96, 97 off the nose — he walked off the field, sat in the dugout and held his nose. The toughest part was having to continue to practice after that.

I talked to Lucas after that and it’s a crazy feeling — not a good one — after hitting someone in the neck and up. Especially your friend. You just feel weird. … That’s a tough thing. That’s tough on him.”

A little birdie told me that you previously played shortstop. Was there ever a time you considered making the majors as a shortstop?

“When you asked if there was anyone who would have rivaled Nolan Arenado, the only person I would have taken is myself. I for sure would put myself up against Nolan. I can’t say that today. If you put guys up against him like (Matt) Chapman and (Manny) Machado and they’re unbelievable. I would have put myself in that category because I thought I was pretty damn good.

I didn’t hit well in my senior year. There was a lot of stuff going on. I told my high school coach this before. He put me at third base to protect my arm for team continuity because I was going to go back and forth between pitching and what not and he didn’t want to rotate. I played third and I was pretty dang good at it. I could play short. I did the whole summer circuit as a position player. I pitched only for Team USA. In the All-American game I played third base and shortstop.

It was 50-50 going into the year and then I’m throwing 94-95 with four pitches and it was like, “We’re going to make you pitch here.” I came around to it. The only thing I didn’t do is I didn’t hit for power, but I could run, field and throw. … Nowadays I would love to continue hitting. I wish it was something we could do more consistently because everyone wants to give crap to pitchers because we can’t hit and this and that. I’ll pass on hitting because that’s what led to my oblique injury.”