(BaseballStL) - At one point in time this season Joe Kelly was referred to as a "Ferrari" by his very own pitching coach. You have to be pretty darn good to get that label.
This has been an odd year for Kelly, especially considering how far he came last season and the fact he was used in relatively important roles in the postseason. The California kid was the favorite to be the 5th starter out of spring training but an injury to Jason Motte made his presence out of the 'pen that much more necessary.
Sure, Kelly got off to a rough start (8.31 ERA in April) but he's righted his own ship and has a chance now to show he is more than deserving to have a critical role down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
But the thing is...he has to impress when he gets the ball. Because, first of all, he only gets a couple more starts the rest of this month due to the All Star break. And, second, there's this guy named Chris Carpenter on the mend who will have made at least three rehab starts by the time the July 31st trade deadline hits.
So, basically, Joe Kelly's opportunities are few before GM John Mozeliak is going to have to make some big decisions at the end of this month. Will he go out and get another pitcher? Where will Kelly fit into the equation when all of his moves are finished?
I'm not suggesting Joe Kelly's role for September and October hinge on one start at Wrigley Field, but a great outing this afternoon against the Cubs would provide a lot of good will on his part. This is a kid who can hit mid-90s with his fastball as a starter and upper-90s as a reliever. There's an obscene amount of talent there and I do believe his inconsistencies early in the year were out of disappointment in being moved to the bullpen.
Should Carpenter indeed return to form, it may not matter what Kelly does as a starter. He could find himself in the bullpen regardless. But what he does on the mound - starting or relieving - will go a long way in determining exactly what role he'll have should he get moved.
Is he going to be the long reliever who isn't trusted but to pitch in mop up situations? Or is he going to be given high leverage opportunities?
The trade deadline is fast approaching. And John Mozeliak is watching.
Joe Kelly needs to pitch well to keep a big role moving forward.