MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 16: Joe Kelly #58 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 16, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) By Mike McGinnis
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 16: Joe Kelly #58 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 16, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) By Mike McGinnis
(BaseballStL) -- Ever since he was – a tad surprisingly – promoted back in the summer of 2012 Joe Kelly has made an awful lot of starts for the Cardinals. 34 of them to be exact in the regular season. But take just a little bit closer of a look and you’ll see that every time he was in the rotation it was because someone else was hurt.
Usually Jaime Garcia.
2012: Garcia gets hurt, Kelly comes up from AAA to take his place.
2013: Garcia gets hurt, Kelly moves from bullpen to rotation to take his place.
2014: Garcia isn’t ready to start the regular season, Kelly gains starting spot.
Sense a trend?
The Cardinals – to this point – haven’t viewed Joe Kelly as a set member of their starting rotation. He doesn’t chew up as many innings as Lance Lynn (despite doing a better job of preventing runs) and he doesn’t have the contract stability of Garcia.
Well, when Kelly decided to drop down that bunt for a hit back on April 16th against the Brewers and injured his hamstring as a result, he kept the Cards from having to make a very uncomfortable decision. The 25-year old was absolutely dealing to begin the season with a 0.59 ERA in three starts (15.1 innings).
His injury ultimately paved the way for Jaime Garcia to slide back into the starting rotation when healthy with little resistance. It wasn’t like the Cards were hesitant to move Tyler Lyons and his 6.12 ERA.
So what happens when Kelly comes back? Well, an injury to another starter would make the decision moot since he could just take their place. Heck, that’s what he’s been since getting promoted to St. Louis a couple years ago.
But what if no one does? Will the Cardinals simply send him to the bullpen to help out Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and the overworked brigade of relievers Mike Matheny has? Remember, Kelly’s been better as a starter compared to working out of the bullpen.
In 193.2 innings as a starter, Kelly has a 2.83 ERA while holding opponents to a .261 average.
In 52.2 innings as a reliever, Kelly has a 3.25 ERA while holding opponents to a .275 average.
The numbers aren’t terrible in relief but Kelly is clearly better working out of the rotation. Obviously, there’s a long way to go considering it may well be another few weeks before the man is even healthy enough in his hamstring to throw. But it’s an odd spot to be in for a guy who’s been so good yet never been given a clear cut starting role.