JUPITER, Fla. • A year ago as pitchers and catchers reported to the Cardinals’ Roger Dean Stadium complex, pitching coach Mike Maddux was as new to the team’s major-league conversations as rookie Jack Flaherty.
Maddux, in his first year with the team, had heard all about the ascending prospects, the power potential, the depth, and this young righthander, Flaherty, who the Cardinals felt, internally, could pitch atop their rotation in a few years. Maddux wanted to see for himself.
“Everybody said they liked him,” Maddux said. “I saw a guy throw a couple of times. Saw him compete a couple of times. And I went from like to love real quick. This ol’ boy – that’s the real McCoy there. And he’s young. Highly motivated. I think that’s one of Jack’s strengths. He’s not complacent being OK.”
As the Cardinals hold their first official workout of 2019 on Wednesday, Maddux’s eyes are open for the next young pitcher to make that kind of spring impression. Sitting at a table in the middle of the Cardinals’ clubhouse and interrupting his comments every so often to say hello to another pitcher arriving Tuesday, Maddux described how he starts this season with a deeper appreciation for the pitchers returning to the team and just as much anticipation for some of the new arms arriving. He said he expects to take 12 pitchers north, though the Cardinals remain open to 13 and going with one fewer bench player.
He marveled at how Carlos Martinez performed at closer but stressed the righthander is earmarked for the rotation. He talked about the communal leadership the pitching staff has, chaired by Adam Wainwright and his “50 years in the big leagues,” Maddux said. He then corrected himself. “Well, 47. Sorry.”
Maddux has his spring mapped out and a trouble area in early March spotted, and 12 of the 33 pitchers in camp will open “stretched out” on a starter’s program.
Nine of those 12 could be considered for a starting job in the big leagues, and a 10th, pitcher Alex Reyes, will begin a week behind his peers because of shoulder surgery. Still, “he’s in competition mode to break camp with us,” manager Mike Shildt said. Maddux said last spring that he had never been in an organization with as much pitching on the way. It’s here.
“One of the best things about spring training is five weeks from now when we’re sitting in the room talking about how do we pare down and you’re we’ve got 33 guys in camp and we’re going to take 12,” Maddux said. “Tough decisions are a good thing. That’s a real good thing. Unfortunately, I’ve been on other staffs that we had eight. And then we started giving out scholarships.”
The Cardinals’ pitching staff had the sixth-best ERA in the NL this past season, at 3.85, and that was buoyed by a rotation that had a 3.52 ERA, third-best in NL. During the Cardinals’ 22-win run through August, rookies Flaherty and lefty Austin Gomber combined to go 9-0 in their 11 starts.
Of the Cardinals’ 162 games, 117 were started by a pitcher age 26 or younger.
“I’m not going to sneak up on anybody, that’s for sure,” Flaherty said of this spring training. “We’ve got a young staff, and we still do, still do. (Growing up together) you know what every guy feeds off of, you know how every guy works, you know every guy’s little tendencies, and you also know where you have to hold guys accountable. It makes it a little easier from that aspect. They’ll listen to you. There’s trust. They’ll come to you – and they’ll hold you accountable very quickly.”
Flaherty, Martinez, Michael Wacha and All-Star Miles Mikolas are the favorites for four spots in the rotation. The Cardinals expect Wainwright, back on a one-year deal, to seize the fifth spot. In addition to them, some of the pitchers on a starter’s schedule will be Gomber, John Gant, Daniel Ponce de Leon, possibly Ryan Helsley, and Dakota Hudson. Although he flourished as a reliever in the second half of last season, Hudson won the Pacific Coast League’s pitcher of the year award this past season as a starter.
And he won the Texas League’s award the year before that, as a starter.
“We’ve got to see that,” Maddux said.
The Cardinals want the spillover of starters to fortify a bullpen that could get crowded quickly if they take seven relievers into opening day. Righthanders Mike Mayers and Gant and lefty Chasen Shreve are out of options and either have to be in the majors or risked through waivers. Gant could serve in long relief, Shreve as a lefty specialist, and Mayers as late-inning power.
Maddux grinned as he fielded a question about entering the season with a stockpile of relievers but no true, designated closer.
“Looking forward to finding out,” Maddux said. “Will be fun to figure out. There have been many times on many ballclubs that your closer is not, per se, your best pitcher. You don’t want to pin your best pitcher into the ninth inning. It might be the middle of the order, ducks on the pond, in the seventh. You’ve got to bring your best guy in then.”
The starters re-purposed for the bullpen won’t come at the expense of leaving the rotation exposed with no spares at Class AAA Memphis. Ponce de Leon has “a swing-and-miss fastball,” Maddux said, that made the transition to bullpen. But the team could need him to start for the Redbirds, as insurance. Lefty Evan Kruczynski has been “fast-tracked,” Maddux said, to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee, and the coaching staff will look for innings to evaluate him in person for the first time. Same for Seth Elledge, a righthanded reliever whom the Cardinals acquired from Seattle. He had 74 strikeouts and 21 walks in 55 innings this past season in the minors.
On his plan, Maddux has several “squad” games scheduled in early March just so he can create some innings to review all the pitchers and give innings to pitchers building arm strength. In early March there are days when he’ll need 17 innings, not just nine in a Grapefruit League game.
The spring schedule is geared around getting pitchers ready — specifically starters, who need to build their stamina. They get in their pitches.
Coaches get their looks.
“This year,” Maddux started and then had to pause and stand up to shake the hand of Helsley, the Class AAA starter who could follow Hudson and Jordan Hicks to the majors as a power reliever.
“Yeah, there are going to be people who we haven’t seen that might wow us,” Maddux continued. “I look forward to that. I want to get wowed. The guys that we know …”
Maddux stopped again, this time to greet Hudson.
“… The guys that we know, you just want to see them be healthy, compete, and continue to excel,” the pitching coach said. “That wows you.”
50 greatest St. Louis Cardinals pitchers
50. KYLE LOHSE
STL SEASONS: 2008-12
CREDENTIALS: Led National League in winning percentage at .824 with 16-3 season in 2012.
49. WOODY WILLIAMS
STL SEASONS: 2001-04
CREDENTIALS: Righthander had a .672 winning percentage (45-22), plus three postseason wins.
48. JASON MOTTE
STL SEASONS: 2008-14
CREDENTIALS: Converted catcher led league with 45 saves in 2012 after getting final out of 2011 World Series.
47. MILES MIKOLAS
STL SEASONS: 2018-current
CREDENTIALS: Only one year as a Cardinal, but Mikolas had a brilliant 18-4 season in 2018, leading the National League in winning percentage and tying for most victories. The key: he had fewer walks (29) than starts (32).
46. TOM HENKE
STL SEASONS: 1995
CREDENTIALS: Only one season with the club, but Henke went out with a bang in his final big-league year with 36 saves and a 1.82 ERA.
45. DARRYL KILE
STL SEASONS: 2000-02
CREDENTIALS: Kile, whose career ended tragically when he died in a Chicago hotel room in 2002, won 20 and 16 in his only two full seasons here.
44. CARLOS MARTINEZ
STL SEASONS: 2013-current
CREDENTIALS: He’ll have time to move higher on this list, but almost anybody ranked in the top 50 would take his stuff. He's a two-time All-Star.
43. AL HRABOSKY
STL SEASONS: 1970-77
CREDENTIALS: “Mad Hungarian” started a long line of elite closers with his dominance in the mid-1970s, including 13-3 mark with 22 saves in 1975.
42. MICHAEL WACHA
STL SEASONS: 2013-2019
CREDENTIALS: Won four games in 2013 postseason as a rookie, earning MVP award in NLCS. Two years later he was an All-Star within a 17-7 season.
41. TED WILKS
STL SEASONS: 1944-51
CREDENTIALS: Righthander was 51-20 with a 3.26 ERA for Cardinals and was a key pitcher for the 1944 and 1946 World Series champs.
40. JOE HOERNER
STL SEASONS: 1966-69
CREDENTIALS: Lefthanded bullpen ace was big part of NL champs in 1967-68, with a 1.47 ERA in 1968.
39. BOB TEWKSBURY
STL SEASONS: 1989-94
CREDENTIALS: Tewksbury produced five consecutive double-figure win seasons, topped by 16-5 in his All-Star season of 1992.
38. CY YOUNG
STL SEASONS: 1899-1900
CREDENTIALS: Scored only 45 of his 511 wins for the Cardinals over two seasons. But, he’s Cy Young.
37. DENNIS ECKERSLEY
STL SEASONS: 1996-97
CREDENTIALS: "Eck" is a Hall of Famer because of what he did elsewhere but he had 66 saves when he was ages 41 and 42 here.
36. MURRY DICKSON
STL SEASONS: 1942-48; 1956-57
CREDENTIALS: Was 72-54 for Cardinals and pitched in two World Series in 1943 and 1946.
35. FLINT RHEM
STL SEASONS: 1924-32; '34, '36
CREDENTIALS: Righthander was 81-63 for Cardinals, including 20 wins for St. Louis’ first World Series champs in 1926.
34. LINDY MCDANIEL
STL SEASONS: 1955-62
CREDENTIALS: Going from the rotation to the bullpen, he had 66 wins and 66 saves from 1956-62 with four double-figure win years.
33. RED MUNGER
STL SEASONS: 1943-52
CREDENTIALS: Righthander was 74-49 for the Cardinals and pitched a complete-game three-hitter to win a game in the 1946 World Series.
32. CURT SIMMONS
STL SEASONS: 1960-65
CREDENTIALS: Lefthander won 18 games for World Series champions in 1964.
31. RAY SADECKI
STL SEASONS: 1960-66; '75
CREDENTIALS: Southpaw won 20 for ’64 World Series champions. He was good enough to get Orlando Cepeda from the Giants in a 1966 trade.
30. LANCE LYNN
STL SEASONS: 2011-17
CREDENTIALS: Averaged 15 wins a season from 2013-17, with a high of 18 in 2012, his first full season.
29. NELSON BRILES
STL SEASONS: 1965-70
CREDENTIALS: Inserted in the '67 rotation in late July after Bob Gibson suffered a broken leg, Briles was 4-4 at the time and finished with a 14-5 record and the NL's best win percentage. He followed up by winning 19 games for the NL champs in 1968.
28. ERNIE BROGLIO
STL SEASONS: 1959-64
CREDENTIALS: Led National League with 21 wins in 1960. His 18 victories in 1963 made him an attractive enough trade chip to secure Lou Brock the next year. Sore-armed Broglio won seven games in three seasons for the Cubs. Brock wound up in Cooperstown.
27. GERRY STALEY
STL SEASONS: 1947-54
CREDENTIALS: Had 89 Cardinals wins and 19 saves, with five consecutive double-figure win seasons, including 19 in '51 and 18 in '53.
26. BILL HALLAHAN
STL SEASONS: 1925-36
CREDENTIALS: “Wild Bill” won 19 games for the World Series champions in the 1931 regular season and two in the Series when he had an 0.69 ERA.
25. AL BRAZLE
STL SEASONS: 1943, 1946-54
CREDENTIALS: A dual threat, he won 97 games and saved 59 for the Cardinals, unofficially leading the league twice in saves.
24. LARRY JACKSON
STL SEASONS: 1955-62
CREDENTIALS: Was 101-86 for Cardinals with six consecutive seasons of double-figure victories. (True story: In 1957, Jackson became the first Idaho native to make an All-Star roster. To celebrate, Idaho's governor shipped a sack of potatoes to every NL All-Star.)
23. TREVOR ROSENTHAL
STL SEASONS: 2012-17
CREDENTIALS: "Rosey" had back-to-back seasons of 45 and 48 saves before encountering arm trouble and sitting out the 2018 season.
22. LON WARNEKE
STL SEASONS: 1937-42
CREDENTIALS: Righthander had six double-figure-win years in succession, threw a no-hitter in 1941 and had a lifetime .629 winning percentage for the Cardinals.
21. TODD WORRELL
STL SEASONS: 1985-92
CREDENTIALS: Six-foot-five righthander had three successive 30-plus save seasons and won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1986. Also made eight outfield appearances when Whitey Herzog would bring Worrell into a game to pitch, then send him to the outfield when a lefty reliever was summoned for a lefthanded batter, then bring him back to the mound.
20. JOHN TUDOR
STL SEASONS: 1985-88; 1990
CREDENTIALS: Soft-tossing southpaw had .705 winning percentage and 21 wins, including 10 shutouts for ’85 NL champs. Tudor started that season 1-7, then finished with a 20-1 run.
19. MATT MORRIS
STL SEASONS: 1997-2005
CREDENTIALS: His 101 wins featured a National League-best 22 in the Cardinals' 2001 playoff season. Runner-up for Rookie of the Year in '97 and third in the '01 Cy Young voting.
18. MAX LANIER
STL SEASONS: 1938-46; 1949-51
CREDENTIALS: Lefthander won 101 games for the Cardinals, 20 of them shutouts. Lanier was 6-0 with six complete games in 1946 when he jumped to the Mexican League. He was suspended from playing organized baseball in the U.S. and wasn't reinstated until 1949, when he rejoined the Cardinals.
17. GROVER CLEVELAND ALEXANDER
STL SEASONS: 1926-29
CREDENTIALS: "Ol' Pete" had one of the biggest strikeouts in club history, whiffing Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in Game 7 of the ’26 Series against the mighty Yankees. Baseball's third-winningest pitcher all-time won 21 games as a 40-year-old and 16 as a 41-year-old for the Cardinals.
16. BILL SHERDEL
STL SEASONS: 1918-1930; 1932
CREDENTIALS: Lefthander was 153-131 for the Cardinals, winning 16 for the 1926 World Series champions and 21 for the '28 NL pennant-winners.
15. BILL DOAK
STL SEASONS: 1913-1924; 1929
CREDENTIALS: “Spittin’ Bill” won 140 games for the Cardinals between 1914-23 and many of those teams were not very good. He had the NL's lowest ERA twice, including a 1.72 mark in '14.
14. STEVE CARLTON
STL SEASONS: 1965-1971
CREDENTIALS: Had five consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins for Cardinals, capped by 20 in 1971. And then he was gone. Owner Gussie Busch traded the future Hall of Famer to the Phillies after a salary dispute over $5,000.
ALL-TIME CARDS STAFF ... STARTING WITH NO. 13: HOWIE POLLET
Since teams often have 13 pitchers on their staffs now, here is a version of the Cardinals’ all-time staff, beginning with Howie Pollet, who ranked No. 13 in our top 50:
STL SEASONS: 1941-43; 1946-51
CREDENTIALS: Lefty had his career interrupted by World War II but returned to win 20 games for the 1946 World Series champs and 21 in 1949. Pollet Led National League in ERA in 1943 (1.75) and in 1946 (2.10). Little-known fact: He was pitching coach for Cardinals’ 1964 World Series champions.
12. BOB FORSCH
STL SEASONS: 1974-88
CREDENTIALS: Ten seasons of 10 or more wins for the Cardinals, including 20 victories in 1977. "Forschie" had two no-hitters and posted 168 victories, third on the Cardinals’ career list. He turned the momentum toward the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS by drilling “One Flap Down” Jeffrey Leonard with a pitch.
11. BRUCE SUTTER
STL SEASONS: 1981-84
CREDENTIALS: Split-fingered practitioner threw a rare high fastball past Milwaukee’s Gorman Thomas to end the 1982 World Series. His next biggest pitch of that season was getting Phillies’ Mike Schmidt to hit into a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded in a pivotal pennant-race game.
10. HARRY BRECHEEN
STL SEASONS: 1940; 1943-52
CREDENTIALS: Little lefthander known as "The Cat" had a 128-79 mark for the Cardinals, highlighted by a 20-win season in 1948. His modest 15-15 record in 1946 can be overlooked because he won three games in the World Series — including Game 6 as a starter and Game 7 as a reliever — with an 0.45 ERA.
9. JOAQUIN ANDUJAR
STL SEASONS: 1981-85
CREDENTIALS: The last Cardinal to win 20 games in successive seasons was “One Tough Dominican” in 1984-85. He was 3-0 in the 1982 postseason as the Cardinals won the World Series. And, if he were still alive, he would remind you of the grand slam he hit in 1984.
8. LEE SMITH
STL SEASONS: 1990-93
CREDENTIALS: Hall of Fame-bound reliever is the only Cardinal to post three consecutive 40-save seasons (1991-93). He's also probably the only Cardinal never to have gray pants in spring training — he did not make any Grapefruit League trips. When asked why he didn’t at least jog in from the bullpen when he was summoned to the mound, Smith responded, “Ever see anybody run in to face Mike Schmidt?”
7. MORT COOPER
STL SEASONS: 1938-45
CREDENTIALS: A big pitcher for his day, the 6-2, 210-pounder was the last Cardinal to win 20 or more games three years in a row, from 1942-44. Cooper recorded a 22-7 mark with a 1.78 ERA and 10 shutouts in the World Series championship year of 1942, when he was the National League MVP. A bitter contract dispute after the 1944 season led to Cooper being traded early in the 1945 season. He finished 105-50 for his Cardinals career.
6. JASON ISRINGHAUSEN
STL SEASONS: 2002-08
CREDENTIALS: "Izzy" is the Cardinals' record-holder at 217 saves, with six seasons of 30 or more saves, including a league-leading 47 in 2004. The Piasa Southwestern High product had 2.98 ERA in St. Louis and also had eight postseason saves, which might have been more if he hadn’t been hurt at the end of the 2006 season.
5. CHRIS CARPENTER
STL SEASONS: 2004-12
CREDENTIALS: If you thought he was good in the regular season, which he was (95-44, .683 win percentage) for the Cardinals, consider that he was 10-4 in 18 postseason starts, featuring a 3-0 mark in two World Series. One wonders what would have happened if he could have back virtually four seasons he was out with injuries.
4. ADAM WAINWRIGHT
STL SEASONS: 2005-current
CREDENTIALS: “Waino” had a remarkable run between 2009-14 (he missed 2011 with elbow injury), winning 20 games twice and also 19 games two times, with the 19-win years including his leading the National League in innings pitched. As a reliever in the 2006 postseason, he recorded four saves. Three of those came as the last outs in the divisional round, the NLCS and the World Series.
2019 update: At age 37, Wainwright returned from an injury-shortened '18 season to win 14 games and make two postseason starts for the NL Central Division champions.
3. JESSE 'POP' HAINES
STL SEASONS: 1920-37
CREDENTIALS: His 210 wins for the Cardinals rank second on the all-time list. Haines had 10 seasons of double-figure wins, three of them 20-victory seasons, and he pitched in four World Series — 1926, 1928, 1930 and 1934, when he was 41 years old. Haines’ no-hitter in St. Louis against Boston in 1924 was the last previous Cardinals’ no-hitter in St. Louis before Bob Forsch authored one in 1978. He pitched his first game as a Cincinnati Red in 1918. The next 554 came with the Cardinals.
2. DIZZY DEAN
STL SEASONS: 1930; 1932-37
CREDENTIALS: Had a line drive by Earl Averill in the 1937 All-Star Game not fractured his big toe (“Fractured, hell. The damn thing’s broken,” Dean was quoted as saying), Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean might have had another five years like his five between 1932-36. He won 120 games in that span, including 30 in 1934 when he was the last National League pitcher to win that many. He hurt his arm trying to favor the foot and was never the same.
At the end of the 1947 season, he briefly came out of the broadcast booth to pitch four scoreless innings at age 37 for the St. Louis Browns, whose staff he had criticized on the air. But he suffered a hamstring pull running the bases after a single, and afterward said he was thankful the pulled muscle he suffered wasn’t in his mouth.
1. BOB GIBSON
STL SEASONS: 1959-75
CREDENTIALS: So many accomplishments but, excluding the record-shattering 1.12 ERA 50 years ago, the most stunning might have been Gibby's complete-game total. Not only did he have 251 wins, but he had 255 complete games. Gibson produced 14 double-figure win seasons.
His World Series mark was exemplary. In nine starts, three each in 1964, 1967 and 1968, he pitched 81 innings, winning seven of nine games. In one of those games, his first one in 1964, he worked eight innings. In one he worked 10 innings. In the other seven, he pitched nine-inning complete games.