After studying St. Louis' veteran staff at big league camp, Jack Flaherty did his best Adam Wainwright impression to start the season for Double-A Springfield.
The Cardinals' No. 8 prospect scattered three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings, struck out six and walked one in a season-opening 9-3 win over Frisco on Thursday at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
"It was an unbelievable experience, just getting invited to it and being around those guys and being able to learn from them… Just talked to a bunch of different guys, like Wainwright, seeing how he went about things," the right-hander said. "Definitely just trying to carry over what I felt like I learned from them and being able to carry that over to how I go about my business and how I continue to work and try to get better."
Staked to a 4-0 lead before he stepped on the mound, Flaherty (1-0) faced the minimum through three innings, aided by a double play in the second.
"I definitely felt very locked in," he said. "[Second baseman] Bruce [Caldwell] started a really big double play. I just felt very good and very comfortable with all my pitches tonight. I felt like I was able to get ahead really well and just work on my fastball."
Flaherty worked around leadoff singles by Scott Heineman in the fourth and Juremi Profar in the sixth to continue shutting down the RoughRiders.
"I just tried to go out there and pitch my game and attack the zone, throw strikes, and I thought I did a pretty good job of that," the 21-year-old said. "And the defense played really well behind me, big double play, Nick Martini made a really nice play at the wall, guys just made really nice plays when I really needed it. And [Luis] Cruz called a very good game, he caught a very good game."
After two quick outs in the seventh, Flaherty issued a walk to Jose Trevino. Manager Johnny Rodriguez quickly came out to inform the 2014 first-round pick that his night was done.
"I wanted to stay in, but with the pitch limit I wasn't going to argue too much, first start of the year," the California native said. "I was more frustrated with myself for walking that guy, especially on four straight because I knew I was near my pitch count. The walk was very frustrating, but overall it was a good night, just looking to build off of it."
After two relievers helped secure the win, Flaherty came away with his first Opening Day victory in three chances, just like Wainwright did with St. Louis.
Coming off another strong season with Class A Advanced Palm Beach, Flaherty is looking to continue to mature on the mound, specifically with pitch sequences, while keeping in mind what he saw the aces do at Spring Training.
Shortstop Alex Mejia collected three hits and three RBIs, while Cruz and Jacob Wilson each drove in two runs in the win.
"It was a really good start to the year for not only me, but for the whole team. It's always good to start the year off 1-0," Flaherty said. "The team went out, they set the tone early, they got a big lead and then Cruz and I were able to go out and execute a really good game and I'm just looking forward to building off of it the rest of the year."