JUPITER, Fla. — Once out of sight and now twice delayed by soreness and illness, Jack Flaherty will make his first appearance of spring training on the main stage Monday afternoon, and there to greet him will be a few champions.
Flaherty first start of this exhibition spring will be against the Houston Astros, and atop their defending World Series winners’ lineup is two MVPs, one of the league and the other of the Fall Classic. While many lineups around the game, including the Cardinals, are stripped of some stars by the World Baseball Classic, Houston still has these familiar names batting first and second:
• Jose Altuve, 2B
• Jeremy Pena, SS
Flaherty’s only other game appearance of spring was a week ago on the back fields as he threw in a simulated game.
Since, he’s dealt with leg soreness that pushed back a bullpen session and, thus, his start. And ahead of his planned start Sunday, Flaherty had an illness that left him dehydrated, so manager Oliver Marmol stepped in and pushed Flaherty’s appearance back another day.
On a regular schedule, Flaherty would be aiming for around three innings and as many as 40 pitches, though it’s not yet clear if the delay will alter the target for his pitch count and workload.
He will be splitting the early half or more of the game with lefty Steven Matz.
Like Flaherty, Matz’s previous appearance of spring was on the back fields. He’ll be making his first game appearance for the Cardinals of spring, and it would have been his first start for them since his knee injury this past season if not for the rewrite of the pitching plan.
The Cardinals’ lineup also features outfielder Dylan Carlson’s return after missing a couple of days to rest his throwing arm. Carlson will be at DH, and that opens up center field for debut.
Victor Scott II, the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick in the most recent draft, will get the start in center, coming over from minor-league camp on its first day to appear in the Grapefruit League game.
Scott, 22, appeared in 31 games for Class A Palm Beach this past season, his first in pro baseball. He hit .222/.358/.389 with 24 hits and 13 steals and also had four triples.
And here is the Cardinals’ lineup:
1. Masyn Winn, SS
2. Dylan Carlson, DH
3. Juan Yepez, 1B
4. Willson Contreras, C
5. Alec Burleson, RF
6. Taylor Motter, 3B
7. Moises Gomez, LF
8. Juniel Querecuto, 2B
9. Victor Scott II, CF
Starting pitcher: Jack Flaherty, RHP. Set to follow: Steven Matz, LHP. Also available out of the bullpen: Tink Hence, RHP; Chris Stratton, RHP; Drew VerHagen, RHP; and also first-round pick Cooper Hjerpe, LHP.
And here is the Astros’ lineup, as posted in West Palm Beach, Fla., ahead of their drive north to Roger Dean Stadium for the game.
1. Jose Altuve, 2B
2. Jeremy Pena, SS
3. Martin Maldonado, C
4. David Hensley, 1B
5. Justin Dirden, RF
6. Chas McCormick, LF
7. Jake Meyers, CF
8. Yainer Diaz, DH
9. J. C. Correa, 3B
Starting pitcher: Hunter Brown, RHP.
Check back throughout the day for coverage of Flaherty’s start here at StlToday.com. There will also be the weekly Cardinals chat during the game, fielding questions and facing criticism during the game. And there will be expanded coverage at StlToday.com and in the pages of Tuesday’s Post-Dispatch.
Also, it’s Daniel Day: Post-Dispatch baseball writer Daniel Guerrero will bring abundant and exclusive coverage from the first day of minor-league camp.
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