Ever since Jaime Garcia went on the disabled list, and Tyler Lyons was optioned back to AAA Memphis, the St. Louis Cardinals have been essentially without a fifth starting pitcher. Due to an abnormal schedule which had four off days in the 20 days leading up to the All-Star break, the Cards have been able to adjust the rotation. This allowed the Cardinals to start Joe Kelly just twice during this stretch as a sort of trial for the fifth starting spot. The excess of off days also allowed the Cards to skip one of the struggling Shelby Miller’s starts to give him a bit of a break. But the key development of this shifting of the rotation has been the potential emergence of Kelly.
Kelly, who started the season as reliever, earned his first win of the year in his start against the Cubs Friday. He has been solid for four straight outings, improved his earned run average from 5.00 to 3.88 during that span. Kelly vied for the final spot in the starting rotation in the spring, but was beaten out by Miller. However, Cardinal officials stressed that decision was due to how impressive Miller was, rather than Kelly being inadequate. Now Joe Kelly should get the opportunity to prove he is capable of holding a starting spot on a team seeking a division title.
The Cardinals are hopeful star pitcher Chris Carpenter can come back from another injury to help the pitching staff, but even the most optimistic projections would not have Carpenter ready until another month goes by. Whenever he comes back, the Cardinals may toy with the idea of just putting Carpenter into the bullpen if they do not think he can endure his usual starting role. In the meantime, Joe Kelly should get ample opportunity to start so that the club can assess if he can fill that spot for the remainder of the season.
With the Cardinals’ rotation slumping lately, Joe Kelly can provide a needed boost if he can just continue his solid performance. He does not have to be spectacular, but if he can provide a quality start each time out, it will be critically valuable for the Cards.