Will Flores Be Ready To Replace Ray King?

With the potential departure of fellow left-handed reliever, Ray King, the big question is, will Flores be up to the task of being the Top Gun, left-hander in the Cardinals' bullpen? For that matter, will he even be ready to play by opening day?

The Cardinals announced on Monday that left-handed reliever Randy Flores, has undergone elbow surgery. This news coming as Cardinal fans are wondering, if Flores is going to be the only left-hander, left in the bullpen, when the season opens next year.

For most of this season, the 30 year Flores, spent his time as the Cardinals second lefty in the bullpen behind Ray King. He finished the year with a 3-1 record and a save and a 3.46 ERA, much to the surprise of almost everyone.

Flores, initially didn't figure in the St. Louis' plans as spring training began. The Cardinals taking out some left-handed insurance, also invited lefties, Mike Myers, Bill Pulsipher and Carmen Cali, to try to make the team.

Flores was a minor league free agent that signed with the Redbirds in November of 2003 and split time between Memphis and St. Louis in 2004.

Flores was brought to St. Louis in late August of 2004 to take the roster spot of injured Steve Kline. In his first nine games with the Cardinals he had a record of 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA, showing signs of promise.

At Memphis, Flores made 15 starts and appeared in 36 games en-route to a 5-7 record and a 3.82 ERA in 122.2 innings pitched in 04.

The question going into spring training was, which Flores is going to show up? The one that was marginally successful at the minor league level, or the one who shut everyone down at the major league level? The bottom line, the Cardinals felt that they got the major leaguer Flores. Once the team packed their bags and left Florida to begin the regular season, he had made the team.

Flores struggled early on in the beginning of the season. In the first two months he carried a bloated ERA of 5.19 through eight games, with a record of 0-0 and one save in two opportunities.

In May, he improved going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA and he was even better in June where he posted an ERA of 2.16 in nine games.

Down the stretch in his final nine games of the regular season, Flores was 1-0 with a microscopic 1.59 ERA.

Trust me, here on this one, Flores is in the Cardinals' plans for next season.

For that matter, the Cardinals also have plans for Ray King. Unfortunately, the plans are to move him before opening day. King went public soon after the Cardinals were knock out of the National League Championship Series by the Houston Astros, asking to be traded. Obviously King was frustrated by not appearing in any of the Cardinals nine postseason games, which led to his ill time remarks.

"If I can't pitch in the postseason, then send me somewhere else for me to pitch," King said shortly after the Cardinals' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. "There are 29 other teams I can pitch for. There were positions, there were chances where I could have pitched, and I didn't.

"That bothers me. That bothers me a whole lot."

Of course his comments didn't set well with St. Louis Cardinals management and they will likely accommodate King and his request to be traded before the season starts.

Cardinals' Vice-President and General Manger, Walt Jocketty has a long history of making trades in the postseason as oppose to just signing and paying through the nose for available free agents. King, himself came to St. Louis in a trade that sent J.D. Drew & Eli Marrero to the Atlanta Braves, for King, Jason Marquis and Adam Wainwright.

It is very likely that King will be involved in another multi-player deal before the 2006 season begins.

If all goes well, Flores could be the Top Gun, left-hander out of the bullpen, in the first season of the new Busch Stadium.

According to the St. Louis Cardinals official website, Flores, 30, had a debridement procedure in his left elbow to remove a bone spur. Dr. George Paletta, a medical consultant to the Cardinals and the former head team physician, performed the operation at Barnes Jewish West County Hospital in western St. Louis County.

According to Cardinals spokesman Brian Bartow, Flores is expected to begin throwing in six to eight weeks and be fully recovered by the time the Cardinals report to Jupiter, Fla., in mid-February.

Often the Cardinals tend to be optimistic about the return of injured players, especially pitchers and you have to take their forecasts and predictions with a grain of salt.

Flores, basically had a bone spur removed from the elbow of his pitching arm. A bone spur (osteophyte) is a bony growth formed on normal bone. Most people think of something sharp when they think of a "spur," but a bone spur is just extra bone. It's usually smooth, but it can cause wear and tear or pain if it presses or rubs on other bones or soft tissues such as ligaments or tendons in the body.

A bone spur is usually visible on an X-ray. However, since most bone spurs do not cause problems, it would be unusual to take an X-ray just to see whether you have a bone spur.

So it would appear to me that Flores was experiencing some pain and perhaps some wear and tear on the elbow that precipitated this surgery.

I'm anticipating that Flores will be seeing a physical therapist for ultrasound or deep tissue massage around the elbow, during the off season. Additional treatment he will likely undergo will include rest, ice, stretching, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.

The fact that Flores has had the surgery so soon after the end of the season, there is no reason, based on the information available today, not to expect Flores to be ready for spring training.

Depending on what the Cardinals do with fellow left-hander Ray King, Flores could get the big break, he's always wanted.



The Cardinal Nation Top Stories