NL Notes: Cardinals, Doolittle, Colome

The Cardinals are receiving positive signs about their rotation for 2023, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the club has “rising optimism” regarding the health of right-hander Jack Flaherty ahead of Spring Training.

Flaherty was once among the brightest talents on the St. Louis roster, as he placed in the top 4 of Cy Young voting in 2019 after a campaign that saw him post a 2.75 ERA (152 ERA+) over 196 1/3 innings, while also leading the NL in WHIP.  Since then, however, Flaherty has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness; he struggled badly in the shortened 2020 season to the tune of a 4.91 ERA (86 ERA+) in 40 1/3 innings, and his battles with shoulder injuries in recent years have led him to make just 12 starts from the second half of the 2021 season onward.

If Flaherty is indeed healthy, Goold notes that he could transform the look of a Cardinals rotation that’s full of solid arms but lacking in terms of ace-caliber talent. When he’s taken the mound in recent years, Flaherty has lost a tick of velocity on his pitches across the board, though it’s possible that better health could see him get back up to averaging just over 94 mph on his fastball as he did in 2019.

More from the National League…

  • Sticking with the Cardinals, Goold also reports that right-hander Miles Mikolas is open to an extension with the club. Mikolas, a free agent at season’s end, put up an excellent season in 2022 where he pitched the third most innings in all of baseball (202 1/3) while posting a solidly above average 3.29 ERA (116 ERA+). That said, it’s not especially surprising that Mikolas would be interested in negotiating an extension. Mikolas is entering his age-34 season in 2023, and his sixth as a member of the Cardinals organization (though he did not pitch during the shortened 2020 season), having already extended with the club once back in 2019.
  • Nationals lefty Sean Doolittle, who returned to the club on a minor-league deal this offseason, appears to be healthy and has been throwing off a mound with “no issues” for the past several weeks, according to Mark Zuckerman of MASN. Zuckerman adds that, if he can maintain his health throughout Spring Training, Doolittle is a favorite among non-roster invitees to make the Nationals Opening Day roster given their lack of depth in terms of left-handed bullpen options. Doolittle has spent parts of five seasons as a member of the Nationals bullpen and racked up 75 saves as a member of the team from 2017-2019. During those years, he was among the best lefty relievers in the game, sporting an impressive 2.94 ERA (150 ERA+) across 156 1/3 innings. The past three seasons have been filled with injury woes for Doolittle, however, and now entering his age-36 season, he’ll need to earn his way onto the Nationals roster this spring.
  • Another experienced reliever who Zuckerman suggests could have a leg up on the competition to make the Nationals Opening Day bullpen is right-hander Alex Colome. Zuckerman notes that Washington GM Mike Rizzo has long been intrigued by Colome, who he discussed trading for at the 2016 trade deadline when Colome was a member of the Rays. Since then, Colome has bounced around the league, picking up saves as a member of the Mariners, White Sox, Twins, and Rockies. He remained an effective reliever until last season, when he struggled badly in Colorado to the tune of a 5.74 ERA (82 ERA+). Still, Colome would bring a veteran presence to the Nationals bullpen, and it’s fair to wonder if getting away from Coors Field could help him regain his previous form as he prepares for his age-34 season.

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