(BaseballStL) -- GM John Mozeliak was quite clear when the Cardinals decided to bring up Joe Kelly to fill in for the injured Jaime Garcia earlier this season. It wasn't necessarily because he had the highest upside of any of the AAA starters. It wasn't because he had the most experience.
Kelly was the hot hand at the time. He was flat out dealing in Memphis and Mozeliak wanted to see if they could exploit that in St. Louis for a bit.
Really, no one knew what to expect when the 24-year old came up to the majors in June. Kelly had a big arm, for sure, but he was just 9 months or so removed from putting the finishing touches on a half season spent in AA-Springfield where he had a 5.01 ERA.
So when the California boy got off to a nice start by settling into a mid-3 ERA through 5 starts it was a pleasant surprise. Not a bad job filling in for a while until the team got healthy again and he went back down to Memphis.
When you're brand new and no one knows who you are as a pitcher...that's when stats and results can be a tad misleading. Early on hitters probably looked at the starting lineup in the clubhouse and yelled out "J. Kelly?? Hey!!! Who the heck is J. Kelly???"
They don't have any idea what he throws, how he throws it or where he likes to go in certain situations. There was, quite literally, not a shred of a scouting report on him.
After a while, that changes. You make a few starts, hitters start to become a little more familiar with you...and then they figure you out and start to hit.
That's what was supposed to happen with Joe Kelly. We've been waiting for this kid to come back down to earth.
Guess what? We're still waiting. And we might be waiting for a while longer.
Even though the Cards lost today versus the Cubs, Kelly was mighty impressive once again. He went a season-high 6 and a third innings while giving up 3 runs on 5 hits. Kelly struck out 6 against just 1 walk.
The most important part to me was how he responded after a rough 1st inning where he was incredibly hittable and gave up 2 runs right off the bat...putting the Cardinals in a hole. He came out in the 2nd and made some remarkable adjustments. He went on a run for the next few innings where the Cubs really didn't stand a chance. He sat down 14 in a row at one point.
Kelly's now made 9 starts, spanning more than 50 innings, and he's still got an ERA in the 2's. This has gone far beyond "riding the hot hand". This has gone far beyond "just filling in for a little while".
In 2013 with Kyle Lohse a free agent, Jake Westbrook facing the possibility his option may or may not be picked up, Chis Carpenter no sure thing to return from surgery and prospect Shelby Miller far from big league ready at the moment...there will be decisions to be made regarding the starting rotation.
Joe Kelly has put himself in the mix to become a part of that.