(BaseballStL) -- Pitching a full season in professional baseball is unlike anything else an athlete can do. It doesn't matter what level you've performed at previously in your career - whether it's high school or college - nothing compares to the rigors of a full pro season.
Spring training starts in February. The season goes from April all the way through the end of September, even into October, and then if your team is fortunate enough to make the playoffs you might be pitching for another month. That's approximately 75% of the year a pitcher could be using and abusing his arm. No other level - not in college and certainly not in high school - is anyone going to come close to that kind of work.
That's why as young pitchers work their way up to the big leagues it is imperative to protect their arms. You can't ask someone, no matter how talented they are, to pitch about 100 innings one year in AAA and then come to the majors and throw 210 innings the next. You just can't. You're asking for trouble. And by trouble I mean injury.
That's why the Cards were so set on sending top prospect Michael Wacha back to Memphis. They needed a way to limit his innings, which is much easier to do in the minors. Same goes with Carlos Martinez.
And the same is going to happen at some point with Shelby Miller. No, they're not going to send the favorite for the NL Rookie of the Year back to AAA. But they are going to have to get creative in how they rest him going forward. Miller has thrown 86 and a third innings so far (prior to Saturday's start versus Texas) and is on pace to throw 188 and a third. Throw in a likely playoff run for the Cards and you could be looking at over 200 innings pitched for the 22-year old rookie.
That is not okay.
Well, it's a good thing then that the Redbirds have a golden opportunity sitting right in front of them here as we approach the All Star break. With Tyler Lyons' struggles and Joe Kelly once again showing he deserves to be in the rotation, there's an opportunity here the Cards may not be able to pass up.
They could insert Kelly into the rotation for Lyons - duh - and use these upcoming off days (there are four before the break) to skip Miller's turn in the rotation as much as is allowed.
You see, an argument could be made that Joe Kelly needs to pitch as much as Shelby Miller will need to rest at some point during this season so he can be fresh for the stretch run. Kelly has thrown, get this, just 32 innings so far this season. That's it. 32. And a third of them have come in just two appearances. For someone who was a leading candidate to pitch 150-180 innings entering spring training that's just not enough. I know relievers don't pitch as many innings but still. Joe Kelly needs to pitch.
And now that the Cards have a clear-as-day opening in their rotation (Tyler Lyons is 0-3 with a 8.68 ERA in his last four starts) they can put Kelly into the rotation, get him a boat load of starts over the next few weeks while resting Miller heading into the All Star break.
That's called killing two birds with one stone. It solves many problems all at once.
What it would do, however, is create a hole in the bullpen. Or, more accurately, it would create a hole for innings in the bullpen. Who would be the guy to come in and save a struggling starter in the third? There's no obvious candidate either in St. Louis or Memphis to fill that role.
GM John Mozeliak and his lieutenants could have to get creative (stretch someone like Fernando Salas out, make a trade, etc) to compensate. But that's a small price to pay to get a good pitcher into a key role (Kelly) and to rest someone (Miller) who so obviously is going to need it going forward.