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Flaherty on leaving Cardinals, joining Orioles: ‘A whirlwind’

TORONTO — On Tuesday afternoon, Jack Flaherty was in St. Louis, still a member of the Cardinals, the only organization he had known during his 10-year pro baseball career. Shortly before the 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline, he was traded for the first time, getting sent to the Orioles.

By Wednesday afternoon, Flaherty had arrived at Rogers Centre in Toronto, where Baltimore was halfway through a four-game American League East rivalry series. On Thursday, the 27-year-old right-hander will take the mound in an O’s uniform for his team debut.

“A whirlwind” is the only way Flaherty could possibly describe this week of his life.

“Man, it’s been weird, you know?” Flaherty said. “You’re kind of just waiting and seeing, wondering what’s going to happen, and you’re there for the guys [on the Cardinals] and want them to be playing well and then still prepping for a start, for whenever the next start’s going to be. And then, you get down to the final moments yesterday, and it’s just excitement from there and excitement to get here.”

Flaherty is going to miss his teammates in St. Louis and the relationships that had been cultivated for nearly a decade. How could he not? He was drafted by the Cardinals in 2014, and he spent the past seven seasons with the big league team, having plenty of success.

However, St. Louis is in last place in the National League Central this year. It likely will not make the postseason, which is why the club operated as sellers ahead of the Trade Deadline.

Now, Flaherty has joined the best team in the AL — a successful Orioles squad that entered Wednesday atop the AL East at 66-41.

“It’s exciting to be on a good team. It’s exciting to be on a team that’s in it,” Flaherty said. “There was a lot of promise in St. Louis, and things didn’t work out, sometimes that’s just the way it goes and you can’t really do much about it. And now, it’s just about moving forward.”

Shortly after Flaherty entered the visitors’ clubhouse at Rogers Centre on Wednesday, he met some of his new teammates. Among those who walked up to introduce themselves to the righty was 22-year-old rookie infielder Gunnar Henderson.

Henderson isn’t the only talented youngster on Baltimore’s roster, and Flaherty knows it.

“It’s just an exciting ballclub,” Flaherty said. “You know good when you see it.”

When Flaherty starts Thursday’s series finale vs. the Blue Jays, he’ll slot into an Orioles starting rotation that features a trio of less experienced hurlers (Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez) and one veteran — 35-year-old righty Kyle Gibson, who has emerged as a strong leader during his first year in Baltimore.

Before Flaherty arrived, Gibson reached out to longtime Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright to get a little intel on his new teammate.

“I’ve only heard good things,” Gibson said, “so I’m excited.”

Flaherty doesn’t only bring a wealth of experience with him but also past success. He has a 3.58 ERA in 122 career games (118 starts), and he showed how high his ceiling can be in 2019 — when he had a 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP while finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting.

“He’s obviously a great pitcher,” Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman said.

This year, though, Flaherty has had some ups and downs. He got off to a solid start in April (a 3.94 ERA over six starts) before mostly struggling across May and June (5.63 ERA in nine outings).

In July, Flaherty said he “ironed some things out,” focusing on refining his fastball command and keeping a simple approach. It worked out well, and he pitched to a 3.03 ERA over his final five starts in St. Louis.

Those are the results Baltimore is hoping to get from its first major Trade Deadline acquisition as buyers under the front-office regime of general manager Mike Elias, who was hired in November 2018, then sold every year of the rebuild from 2019-22.

“When you’re in one organization for a long time and then you move, there’s definitely some different emotions,” manager Brandon Hyde said regarding Flaherty. “He’s going to go through, I’m sure, all kinds of emotions [Thursday]. Making a start for us and not being in a Cardinals uniform, I’m sure is going to be a little bit different.”

Flaherty is ready for it. And he’s not going out trying to steal the show. He solely wants to fit in with the O’s and aims to help them make a push to the postseason — where they haven’t been since 2016 — in any way he can.

“Play my role — whatever that role is, whatever I’ve got to do to help these guys win,” Flaherty said. “They’ve done a really, really good job of doing that so far without me being here, so to be myself and go out and pitch well.”

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