MILWAUKEE - The irony is not lost on Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny or Joe Kelly.
It was here, in Miller Park on April 16 that tonight’s starting pitcher Joe Kelly suffered a left hamstring strain that sidelined him for nearly three months.
At the time of the injury, Kelly was 1-1 and the National League ERA leader at .59, albeit only a few weeks into the season.
“Wow, bad memory for him and for me,” said Matheny before Friday’s game. The Cards’ skipper said he knew immediately what had happened that day when he saw Kelly hit the bag, grab his hamstring and wave over the Cardinal staff. “We just didn’t know it would take this long.”
The return of Kelly lifts a team still struggling with the loss of its MVP candidate catcher, Yadier Molina, out until at least September after surgery to repair torn ligaments in this thumb.
“We move on, just like we would if anyone else was injured. It’s not what we wanted to happen, of course, but I’ve been on teams that have lost a very good player and you go on. It’s not an excuse nor a crutch. How you respond separates good teams from very good teams.”
When Matheny was asked what he knew about George Kotteras who the Cardinals signed Friday to back up Tony Cruz. Matheny nodded toward center field and said he remembered a long home run that the newly acquiredCardinal hit off the batter’s eye in center field.
The Cards will need to make a roster move to make room for Kotteras. The speculation is that Triple A catcher Audry Perez will return to Memphis.
Matheny was also asked if clubhouse chemistry was a decision in signing Kotteras as opposed to other catchers available (like former Boston Red Sox A.J. Pierzinski). Matheny smiled and said “We took everything into consideration and made the best decision for the club.”
“Tony’s going to get a lot of opportunities,” Mathenycontinued, something Cards’ GM John Mozeliak said he hoped would happen. “I always want to see what we have (in the organization),” he said.
Matheny also said his decision to bat Kolten Wong second tonight was a de facto reward for the way the youngster has been performing since his return from the disabled list. He said it was a tough decision as to whether to leave Wong down in the order where he is thriving or move him up to the second slot where the Cardinals feel he can be most productive.
In a lighter moment, Matheny said that Cards starter Lance Lynn walked into the relief pitchers’ meeting uninvited today, his way of expressing his availability to pitch in relief Sunday if the Redbirds need him.