Kelly goes on DL, leaving Cardinals with some intriguing options

The Cardinals placed Joe Kelly on the 15-day DL Thursday, a day after straining his left hamstring.

After putting Joe Kelly on the disabled list Thursday, the Cardinals replaced him on the roster with a reliever.

Hmm. So Carlos Martinez is moving into the rotation?

Not necessarily. Kelly would not have been scheduled to start again until Monday, so the Cardinals still have time to weigh their options. Left-hander Tyler Lyons, who made eight starts last season, remains a leading possibility along with Martinez. Lyons has pitched well for Class AAA Memphis and would be on turn to start Monday.

Besides sending Kelly to the DL with a strained left hamstring, the Cardinals also demoted right-hander Keith Butler and promoted two 26-year-old right-handers, Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro. Fornataro had not allowed a run in five innings at Memphis; Rondon had been charged with three in five innings.

With eight relievers on the roster, the Cardinals have enough arms to cover the bullpen. But do they have enough strength in their relief corps to move Martinez out of the bullpen? Or put another way, what do the Cardinals consider more important — their fifth starter or their eighth-inning setup man?

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In Martinez, they have a young right-hander with the stuff to thrive in either role. But after he delivered a strong audition for the rotation in spring training, the Cardinals sent him to the bullpen because they liked the value he provided there.

On Wednesday, when the club didn’t know if Kelly would need to go on the DL, manager Mike Matheny said Martinez remains stretched out enough from spring to be able to move into the rotation. The manager added the severity of Kelly’s injury would factor into the decision. If Kelly were to miss only one or two starts, the club would seem less likely to shake up the bullpen and start Martinez.

But now that Kelly has been disabled, he will miss at least three starts — the key words there being "at least." If Kelly is out a month, the Cardinals would need to cover six or seven starts. Would they go that long with Lyons? He pitched well in his first two starts last season but then struggled.

Think of it like this: Is the pitching staff stronger with Lyons in the rotation and Martinez in the eighth inning, or with Martinez in the rotation and Kevin Siegrist in the eighth inning?

Siegrist has shown the stuff to handle setting up, but bullpen depth has not been a team strength in the early going. Without Martinez in the ‘pen, Seth Maness, Pat Neshek and Randy Choate would need to step up and Rondon and Fornataro would need to do more than take up space on the roster.

At the end of spring training, the club decided Martinez was more valuable in the eighth inning. At that time, however, they still had Kelly in the rotation.

With Kelly out, the pitching situation becomes even more intriguing.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.