Joe Kelly could go from World Series starter to the bullpen


by Brian Feldman / BaseballStL | @BFeldman

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 7 at 5:32 PM

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( -- Sometimes things just aren't fair in life.  In baseball, professional baseball that is, things are even less fair. 

No one understands that more than Joe Kelly right about now.  During the annual Winter Warm Up he spoke of how pitchers from other teams - Stephen Strasburg included - mentioned how Kelly pitched so well in the playoffs and should be guaranteed a spot in the rotation this year.

Kelly said he told them not so fast.

He sees the writing on the wall.  He sees the dynamite trio of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller leading the starting five.  He knows Jaime Garcia is back from injury and due to make $7.75 million.  He knows Lance Lynn is more experienced and probably ticketed for a spot as well.

So barring anything crazy and unforeseen, like an injury or someone not pitching the way they were supposed to, Joe Kelly (the same Joe Kelly who pitched 124 innings last regular season with a 2.69 ERA and started four games in the postseason) could be headed back to the bullpen.

It really is nuts.  This is a guy who would be starting on probably 20-25 other teams in Major League baseball.  He's that good.  Kelly has a big fastball that can reach 97 miles an hour - though it's closer to 95 when he's starting - and very effective secondary pitches.  He's shown an ability to get big outs in crucial spots.

The biggest knock on the 25-year old is how he walks too many guys which leads to elevated pitch counts which leads to coming out of games on the early side.

That's okay.  There are a ton of pitchers in baseball who would love to have his career 3.08 ERA in 231 innings.  Even if he rarely pitches into the seventh.

Unfortunately for Kelly, there are so many talented guys on this St. Louis Cardinals roster that there just isn't room for someone who isn't a potential ace.  Really, it's a compliment to the Cards that they can afford to put someone the ilk of Kelly in their bullpen.

The Anaheim native isn't expected to like it.  I'm sure he'll use it as motivation for the future.  And he should.

But part of what made him so successful last year was the fact he didn't pitch all that much in April and May (just 18.2 innings combined) which kept him very fresh for when he did go into the starting rotation. 

That same tactic could be used once again in 2014.  The Cardinals could opt to keep Kelly in the bullpen as a long reliever early in the season and then put him in there when the inevitable injury occurs.  

It worked in the past.  Who's to say it can't work again?