(BaseballStL) — Joe Kelly has been on the DL since April 17, missing 59 games to date. After pulling his hamstring against the Brewers trying to beat out a bunt, Kelly has dealt with a lengthy recovery marred by setbacks and periods of slow progress.
Thursday, for the first time in two months, the end is near.
Kelly threw a bullpen before the series opener with the Phillies, he estimated it as his third, and the review from manager Mike Matheny was positive.
“It looked good. The ball was coming out of his hand nice and it didn’t look like he had any reservations,” he said.
Because he has been able to throw steadily while his leg healed, his arm strength has remained consistent, helping shorten the recovery window now that his hamstring has reached full health.
“My arm is fine, everything’s fine. It’s just about putting it all together now,” Kelly said before Thursday’s game.
He added he will throw another session and expects to be out on a rehab start sometime next week. Matheny said he wants Kelly to be able to sprint before he comes off the DL, and beyond that needs to have the leg strength to get through a start.
“There’s a different between having ‘weight room’ leg strength, ‘feeling healthy’ leg strength and ‘consistency through a pitching outing’ leg strength so it’s going to take a little while for him to get back,” the St. Louis manager explained. “There’s health things he needs to do still. Full out running, he’s been close. A little bit of activity off the mound after he throws, moving side to side, that quick stuff like covering bases.”
Kelly said he feels fine covering bases, but full-speed sprinting in the game may be something he puts on the shelf for awhile.
“I mean I’m not going to try ever for the rest of the season. I can get by with three quarters,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to run a 6.3 60 [yard dash] like I used to. I’m not going to try to force that. I’m going to be able to run faster than your average hitter and cover the base.”
Athleticism has been a point of pride for Kelly, and Matheny doesn’t want to see him dial back because of the injury.
“I think that was just one of those fluke things. He’s a professional athlete, and he’s a very athletic baseball player,” he said. “You’re not going to be able to hold him back. Even in the box. He’s only got one speed. If he can get to a ball and make something happen, he’s come too far to go backward.”
Even with reservations about unleashing his speed, Kelly’s competitiveness showed through talking to a small group of reporters on the field.
“Maybe in the World Series if someone’s taking me lightly I’ll try to swipe a bag or something,” he smiled. “I’m not going to be trying to beat bunts out. I might start swinging for doubles and homers now.”
His rehab work will finish up while the Cardinals are on the road. They head to Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco before returning home to St. Louis.