Lyons’ rough start could open spot in Cardinals’ rotation

ST. LOUIS — A fourth straight lousy start figures to cost rookie lefty Tyler Lyons his spot in the Cardinals’ rotation.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny did not address the team’s pitching plans after the Cardinals lost to the Rangers, 6-4, Friday night but admitted that Lyons had “a tough day.”

“He had trouble getting (balls) in the (strike) zone,” Matheny said. “When he brought it back in, he was already in favorable counts for the hitters and they took pretty good swings.”

Lyons allowed only a walk in the first inning but failed to make it through the second. He gave up two doubles to start the inning and then, after getting two outs, allowed a single and two walks and ended up being charged with four runs. Over his past four starts, Lyons was charged with 18 runs in 18 2/3 innings.

Those are numbers more likely to earn Lyons a trip to Memphis rather than a start with the Cardinals next week.

So who would take his place in the rotation?

Thanks to three off days in the next 10 days, the Cardinals could get by with a four-man rotation until July 6 without any starter needing to work on short rest.

If the Cardinals decided to stay with a five-man rotation and to use the off days to give their starters some extra rest, right-hander Joe Kelly is the leading in-house candidate. Kelly worked five scoreless innings in relief of Lyons, though he allowed one inherited runner to score. Kelly also pitched well in a spot start earlier this month, working 5 2/3 innings and giving up only one earned run against Arizona.
“Joe was great,” Matheny said. “He took advantage of his opportunity. That’s all we ask all our guys to do.”

Calling up either of the club’s top pitching prospects, Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez, is another option. Both are starting in the minors after brief stays in the majors.

Veteran right-hander Chris Carpenter is not an option, at least not anytime soon. Carpenter has been bothered by back tightness this week, which has stalled his attempt to come back from nerve issues in his shoulder and neck. Carpenter is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday but even if that goes well, he remains several weeks away from a possible return.

With Kelly unavailable for at least two days after throwing 77 pitches against the Rangers, the Cardinals are expected to call up help for the bullpen on Saturday. It could be time to bring back lefty Marc Rzepczynski, who has made 22 appearances in Memphis with a 2.40 ERA.

To make room on the roster, someone will have to be sent down. After watching his ERA rise from 1.29 to 5.51 in his past four starts, Lyons makes the most likely candidate.
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