The Washington native is healthy this season and pitching well for a winning ball club. The 19-year-old has found a remedy for his troublesome back, and after a slow and inconsistent start, O'Flaherty has worked on a few new pitches. With the aid of his new arsenal, the late-inning specialist has developed into one of the Rattlers more dependable relievers. As of August 24, O'Flaherty is 4-4 with 3.93 ERA and 10 saves.
"He's been one kid that I've been really impressed with the maturity that I've seen him obtain this year in all aspects of his game," said Wisconsin pitching coach Brad Holman.
Early in the season O'Flaherty struggled. He was inconsistent and had trouble finding the strike zone. But with assistance from Holman, O'Flaherty has developed a couple of new pitches that have worked wonders for the former sixth round pick.
"The largest attribute to his success has been the development of a cut fastball and a curveball," said Holman. "And basically what we did was took his slurvee type of a slider and divided it into two pitches, where he's throwing a cut fastball, which is shorter harder type of a slider that is around 85-86 miles an hour, and a curveball which is a 77-80 mile an hour pitch. So we took one breaking ball and turned it into two."
"Brad (Holman) and I came up with an off-speed pitch that I've been able to throw for strikes," said O'Flaherty. "It's like a cutter/slider, and it's where a lot of my success has come from lately. I've just able to throw that in tough counts and get ahead - or get rid of guys."
Another obstacle that O'Flaherty has had to overcome this season is the nagging back problems that stem from a muscle strain last season. An injury that sidelined him for much of the year.
It was the long starting assignments that took a toll on the 20-year-old and prompted the organization to move him to the bullpen. The shorter outings along with an extensive stretching regimen have kept O'Flaherty healthy and on the field.
"It was the long duration that made his back tighten up and he seems to be able to get in there for an inning or two and work through it," said Holman. "Eric is on a pretty strict stretching regimen where he has a different protocol than your average bear. He has to do a lot to keep that back loose and keep up his range of motion so he doesn't hear it, and he's been very diligent in that and he's very diligent in everything that he does."
All that hard work has paid dividends for the Timber Rattlers as well. After Chad Fillinger and Craig James were called up to Inland Empire, the Rattlers relied more heavily on O'Flaherty, who was moved to the closers role, where he has excelled. The team is winning and the players are having fun.
"Everyone here is having a blast, playing hard and never giving up," said O'Flaherty. " I think everyone's a little more laid back and having fun. "
The Timber Rattlers will make their second postseason appearance in three seasons next month, with a brand new O'Flaherty anchoring the bullpen.
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