Kelly to return to St. Louis after straining his left hamstring

Cardinals starter Joe Kelly likely will miss some time, but how much time will determine the approach the Cardinals take to replace him.

Joe Kelly bends over in pain after trying to bunt for a hit in the fifth inning against the Brewers on Wednesday.

Benny Sieu / USA TODAY Sports

After working so long to secure a spot in the rotation, it would be a shame for Joe Kelly if he has to spend much time on the sideline.

He was scheduled to return to St. Louis after exiting Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Brewers with what the club inititally called "left hamstring tightness," which Kelly suffered while trying to beat out a bunt in the fifth inning.

"He's got a strained hamstring," manager Mike Matheny said on the FOX Sports Midwest postgame show.

Kelly referred to it as "tweaked" when talking to reporters after the game. "First one ever," he said about the hamstring injury. "Kind of shocking."

How long Kelly might be out will be key in how the Cardinals would fill his spot in the rotation. If the club believes Kelly might miss only a start or two, it would be less likely to shuffle bullpen roles and put Carlos Martinez in the rotation.

"He's been extremely valuable to us and done a nice job down there," Matheny said. "You never want to speculate how long something could be. If this was a shorter stint and wasn't something that was for a long period of time, it would make sense to find somebody to jump in for a short period."

If the club wants a stopgap, lefty Tyler Lyons looks like the logical candidate. He pitched Wednesday for Class AAA Memphis and worked seven strong innings, allowing only one run. Lyons was called up last year and made two strong starts before faltering and being sent back to the minors.

Another lefty, Tim Cooney, also has pitched well for the Redbirds but, unlike Lyons, he is not on the 40-man roster. To promote him, the Cardinals would have to make room on the 40-man roster.

If the club needs a longer-term replacement in the rotation, Martinez is the obvious candidate. His future is as a starter and he pitched as well as any starter on the team in spring training. He was put in the bullpen largely because he enjoyed so much success as a setup man in the postseason and the Cardinals wanted a shutdown man for the eighth inning.

The club doesn't expect to know more about Kelly's status until he undergoes an MRI on Thursday.



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