(BaseballStL) — Joe Kelly was en route to a quality start Wednesday when his youthful exuberance perhaps got the best of him.
In the top of the fifth, the 25-year-old tried to lay down a bunt for a hit. While Kelly is certainly athletic enough to beat out a bunt, he appeared to catch the bag short at first and came up clutching his left hamstring.
He limped off the field slowly, and eventually was helped into the dugout. The injury would pull him from the game, cutting short a strong performance on the mound.
Through four innings Kelly had thrown 45 pitches, 31 for strikes. He was ahead of 11 hitters with a strike and saw four counts of 0-2 or 1-2. He allowed one unearned run and struck out two, registering no walks and getting eight groundouts.
It followed his strong start against the Cubs, when he went six innings while striking out three and walking none. Kelly has now allowed only one earned run on the season in 15.1 innings.
The severity of Kelly’s injury is unknown, as he was said to have a hamstring strain. He will be sent back to St. Louis for examination and will not make the trip to Washington D.C.
Despite the injury, manager Mike Matheny wasn't upset with his pitcher's choice to bunt for a hit.
"He's gotta go hard," Matheny told reporters in Milwaukee. "If he hit the bag funny, I'd rather see him do that properly."
The Cardinal manager told assembled media it was too soon to tell if Kelly will miss time, but did field questions about possible replacements.
The club will likely be cautious with their young starter, no matter how serious the strain turns out to be. If he were to miss one or multiple starts, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons would both be candidates to fill his role.
If the Cardinals wanted to protect the bullpen, Lyons would be the better choice. Having thrown Wednesday in Memphis (7 innings, 5 hits, 1 run), he would be in rhythm for Kelly’s next start.
Martinez, having thrown 9.2 innings in the pen this year, is not far removed from starting in spring training. However, with repeated short-inning work, there would be questions as to how many innings he could give in his first start. In addition, Martinez’s absence would create an eighth inning hole in the pen.
If the club doesn’t expect Kelly to miss much time, expect a spot start or two from Lyons; something Matheny seemed to confirm to reporters Wednesday.
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