Jack Flaherty, struggling Tigers aim to subdue Blue Jays

Jack Flaherty has turned into a quality pickup for the Detroit Tigers.

Signed to a one-year, $14 million contract as a free agent, Flaherty has been a steadying force for the rotation, and he’ll start the opener of a four-game series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday evening.

Flaherty’s record — 1-3 with a 3.79 ERA — belies his effectiveness. The right-hander ranks among the league leaders in strikeouts with 72 and has issued just eight walks. He’s also been an innings eater, lasting at least six innings in all but one of his nine starts.

“It’s been a good start,” Flaherty, 28, told the Detroit Free Press. “Still some things to clean up, some pitches I want back, especially some two-strike pitches where I had the chance to put guys away and haven’t quite done that. There’s progress to be made and things to be improved upon, but it’s been fun learning from these guys.”

Flaherty’s improved command of his slider has made his fastball and curveball more effective.

“I think it’s just everything,” he said. “A little mechanical adjustments that went on this offseason. You see a couple of good ones, and you get the confidence back to throw it whenever. You keep seeing results, and it’s something you can keep going to.”

Last season, Flaherty had an 8-9 record and 4.99 ERA while making a combined 29 appearances, including 27 starts, for the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles. His offseason work has paid off.

“It was a pitch that I didn’t have last year,” Flaherty said of the slider, “but it’s been really, really good this year.”

In his most recent outing on Saturday, Flaherty gave up two runs in six innings and struck out nine at Arizona while recording his first victory this season in his team’s 8-3 win. Flaherty has won both of his career starts against the Blue Jays, posting an 0.82 ERA.

Right-hander Kevin Gausman (2-3, 4.89 ERA) will be Flaherty’s mound opponent on Thursday. In his last start, Gausman allowed three runs in six innings against Tampa Bay on Saturday while receiving a no-decision in Toronto’s 5-4 loss.

All of the runs scored off him came in the last inning he pitched.

“You’ve got to give them (Rays) credit,” Gausman said. “Not many times I get (hit) late in my outing. It’s usually early or not.”

Gausman is 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 11 career starts against the Tigers.

The Tigers enter the series with a four-game losing streak following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.

The Blue Jays have won three of their last four games, including a 9-2 triumph over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night. Bo Bichette led the offense with his third homer of the season and three RBIs.

Davis Schneider and Daulton Varsho drove in two runs apiece.

It was the second time in three games Toronto scored nine runs. In between, the Blue Jays were blanked by the White Sox, 5-0.

“It just feels good to win and score a lot of runs, to be honest,” Bichette said. “We’ve just got to win every day.”

–Field Level Media