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  • Eli Chapman

Cardinals Flaherty, O'Neill and Carlson deliver Spring Opening Day Shutout over NY Mets


Cardinals Jack Flaherty opens Spring exhibition against the NY Mets Photo: Laurie Skrivan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis Cardinals Jack Flaherty, unsurprisingly, got the nod as starter for the 2020 Spring Exhibition Opening Day. He began his stand Saturday, facing the NY Mets, delivering a first pitch strike. In a customary spring outing with short innings pitched, he went two with allowing two hits, but held them scoreless, He had three strikeouts and issued no walks facing a total of eight hitters.


He was followed by six more pitchers, who also showed very solid skill and continued to hold the Mets scoreless. Special notes: Along with Flaherty, "Dakota Hudson worked two innings before a cast of five relievers, all of them lefthanded, finished up with new Korean pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim and veteran Brett Cecil not allowing a hit in their innings. Genesis Cabrera fanned three batters in the ninth stranding two runners, for the save." (Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch).


TESTING LHP BRETT CECIL ~ HIS RETURN IN 2020.


Very little faith is held, by quite a few Cardinals fans, for LHP Brett Cecil. The last he even pitched a live game was Spring 2019. With injury riddled 2018-2019 he has not see many innings pitched. However, during Spring workouts, Cecil has shown promise.


This is his last season, of a 4 year contract, with the Cardinals. However, like it or not, he is still apart of the Cardinals 40-man roster. He only played in 40 games/32.1 IP in 2018, due to injury sustained and surgery required for carpal tunnel early in 2019, he missed the entire season. Even though, he still is owed a chance to prove himself. The most important part is to himself and for the team. Players are human and have human issues to deal with. Not only physical injury to overcome; but, the mentality of a player is just as important to be in 'good health'. To be in a 'good place' to perform as their very best.


Saturday in the sixth, he got the call for his first appearance in 2020. Once he settled in, I feel a bit nervous, after issuing a HBP on top-of-the-order Brandon Nimmo. Yes, Nimmo did chalk-up a stolen base on Cecil's watch. However, for Saturday, Cecil's concentration was on the next batters up. Which he took care of as he struck out the 'next man up', followed with back-to-back outs, made on the ground and a foul out, to close his inning.


Having to 'knock-off the rust' and holding with some renewed confidence, in my opinion, he did well. Now he has his first stand behind him. He will 'move forward' to look to deliver solid pitching in his next stand(s).


Will he be part of the Cardinals Opening Day bullpen? Only time and his performances this spring will tell.


Cardinals pitchers only allowed Mets six hits and a minimum of two walks with an overall total of nine strikeouts. Mets held the Cardinals to eight hits, only two walks, but gave up a home run and a RBI to be handed a 2-0 shutout by the Cardinals.


Former Cardinals/now Mets reliever Chasen Shreve was slated for the ninth. But, with Cardinals Genesis Cabrera taking care of the Mets, top of the ninth with 3-K's, Shreve did not make an appearance.


EARLY ANNOUNCEMENT BY SHILDT ~ MLB OPENING DAY STARTER


An announcement was made by Cardinals manager Mike Shildt at the end of his press briefing Saturday morning. Flaherty will be handed the start for MLB Opening Day, March 26, against the Cincinnati Reds. He was asked, "Why Flaherty ?" He walked away with a "Really?" reply.


Must have been a new reporter to the Cardinals camp. Flaherty worked his way to "Ace" status in the second half of last season. Demonstrating his his strength recording a 7-2/0.91 ERA in his 15 game starts after the All Star break. Overall in 2019, he was 11-8/2.75 ERA. And, due to lack of offense last season, is the only reason Flaherty did not have 18+ wins.


TYLER O'NEILL AND PROSPECT DYLAN CARLSON ADD THE RUNS


RHP Marcus Stroman was the opener for the Mets. His first inning, he also began with a first pitch strike and logged two strikeouts in his first. Cardinals Matt Carpenter batting second had a 2-1 count, took Stroman's fourth pitch sending his hit out to left field. A placement Cardinals fans saw little of in 2019 by Carpenter.


Carpenter was 2-2 in yesterday's opener and both going the opposite way. Per Shildt, he has been working on placing his hits, especially the opposite way. "The proof's is in the pudding".


Stroman pitched 1.1 innings. In his second, Tyler O'Neill top-of-the-order for his first season at-bat. Stroman had a 3-1 count, then served up a two-seam fastball. O'Neill sent the two-seamer missile out over the left wall 409 feet. That gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the eighth.


Mets also sent seven pitchers to the mound Saturday. In the eighth, Erasmo Ramirez on the mound. Strong delivery and began with two strikeouts. Next up, Cardinals back-up catcher Andrew Knizner. First pitch served up, he stretched his hit to right into a stand-up triple. The first for the Cardinals in 2020. He was followed by prospect Dylan Carlson, who played center field in Saturday's match-up. Carlson 'slugged' out a line-drive right over Ramirez's head to center for a RBI single. That gave the Cardinals a bit of cushion of a 2-0 lead before Ramirez retired Yairo Munoz with his third strikeout to close the inning.


Carpenter and Carlson were the only Cardinals who were 2-2 Saturday. Both O'Neill and Carlson are competing for outfield positions for the Opening Day 26-man roster. Carpenter, at this point in time, will be Cardinals everyday third baseman. What was the concern last season for the Cardinals, offense. They left seven runners stranded Saturday. Still need to work on the small ball ~ "Hits and Runs". And in my opinion, that will develop as their Spring season progresses.


AMAZING CARDINALS DEFENSIVE PLAY


Even though a bit of "Keystone Cops" defense shown by the Cardinals late in the game ... they got their 'game on' mindset back in place.


"The Cardinals’ defense came into play in the eighth with second baseman Max Schrock and shortstop Edmundo Sosa both saving a hit, cutting short a Mets threat." Video: FSMW Twitter. "Unconventional, but hey, an out is an out! Solid play by Max Schrock." ... Yes, it sure was - mission accomplished.


CARDINALS ~ NEXT UP TRAVEL FOR A METS RE-MATCH


Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright will make the start today, Sunday, on the road facing the Mets at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie. He will go two innings or 35 pitches in his Spring opener.


Additional Cardinals 'regulars', 2B Kolten Wong, SS Paul DeJong and CF Harrison Bader all sat on Saturday. Suggesting, they will be in the 'traveling' line-up on Sunday for the rematch with the Mets.


Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter, @elichap822.


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