Dylan Carlson spent last weekend in Springfield on an injury rehab assignment, working his way back to the big-league Cardinals from a hamstring strain. (Photo: P.J. Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

As major leaguers on injury rehab assignments at Hammons Field, Jack Flaherty and Dylan Carlson were not subject to the pace-of-play clock that has been a big hit in minor-league baseball this season.

Not that Flaherty, a noted fast worker on the pitcher’s mound, would have needed one anyway. The right-hander retired all nine Arkansas Travelers he faced on Sunday night, needing only 30 pitches to complete three impressive innings.

Flaherty was pitching for the first time since shoulder discomfort during spring training shut him down. He’s likely headed to Triple-A Memphis on Friday to stretch out his workload a bit more. A return to the St. Louis roster could happen by late June.

“It felt good to be back on the mound, in a game, facing hitters,” said Flaherty, who was 7-2 with a 1.52 earned run average in 10 starts for Springfield in 2017 before a promotion to Triple-A.

One not to waste time on the mound, Flaherty said it will be interesting if the clock — which requires minor-league pitchers to deliver the ball in 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 with runners aboard — is adopted in the big leagues next season.

Batters must be in the box and ready by the nine-second mark.

“I think hitters need to get in the box a little bit faster,” Flaherty said following his three-inning stint. “There are certain pitchers that need to work faster. I don’t like the fact that it’s called a pitch clock. There are a lot of hitters that want to take their sweet time and not get back in the box between pitches, too.”

Flaherty said the starters on the St. Louis staff “want to work quickly and set a tempo. Once I get a pitch, it’s on to the next one. We’ve got a couple of guys on our team that work a little slow. Sometimes working faster you get a better pace and it makes things go easier.”

Then again, it’s not that simple. Flaherty said there are times that even fast workers need to slow down and take a breath. 

“There’s way more thought that goes into every pitch and the stakes are much higher,” he said of the big leagues. “There is a lot going on, a lot of info going into your head. There’s times where you have to slow down. You get into those high-pressure moments. 

“That’s where you run into issues with that (clock). There are things that need to be ironed out. There is no seamless transition.”

Carlson played three games for Springfield on his way back from a strained hamstring. He said he noticed a clear faster pace of play during his weekend stay, even though the clock did not apply to him.

“If and when it gets there, we’ll have to see how it plays out, but it definitely was moving the pace in these games,” Carlson said. “I’m sure there would be an adjustment. You’re kind of used to being on your own up there.”

Springfield is special to the duo

Jack Flaherty retired all nine batters he faced in three quick innings for the Springfield Cardinals on Sunday. Flaherty is rehabbing from a shoulder strain. (Photo: P.J. Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

Timed or not, Carlson and Flaherty said they enjoyed being back in Springfield, a formative place in their professional development. Carlson played 108 games for Springfield in 2019, hitting .281 with 21 home runs with 59 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.

Carlson took time to sign several autographs for young fans after leaving the game and concluding media interviews on Sunday.

“Springfield’s a really special place to me, a great baseball community with great fans,” Carlson said. “It’s a great stadium to play in. I wish everyone would get the opportunity to play here.”

Flaherty said pitching again at Hammons Field brought back good memories.

“It was fun,” he said of the 2017 Springfield team. “We had a fun team to be around and our staff was great. Four of the five guys that were in the rotation (including Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber and Sandy Alcantara) are in the big leagues and doing well.”

Flaherty and Carlson said they are impressed by some of the rising young talent currently in Springfield, including 20-year-old hitters Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn.

Asked what advice they would give the youngsters, Flaherty shook his head and said they needed little direction.

“Just keep playing the game the way they are,” Flaherty said. “Things are going well and don’t change too much. At that point, it becomes about consistency. They’re both good enough. They both play the game well and play it right. Just keep doing that.”

Added Carlson: “Those guys are doing a great job. They carry themselves real professionally already. It’s good to see.”

Cardinals back home next week

The Springfield Cardinals opened a six-game Texas League series on the road against Midland on Tuesday night. The Cardinals return to Hammons Field for six games, June 14-19, against Corpus Christi. 

For ticket info, call 417-863-0395 or visit the Cardinals box office at Hammons Field.

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, co-hosts The Sports Reporters on Jock 96.9 FM, 99.9 FM and 1060 AM on Monday mornings with Ned Reynolds and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at Lscranton755@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton