Kelly, perhaps the top-rated position-player prospect in the Cardinals’ system, was recalled Friday from Triple-A Memphis. Yadier Molina’s previous backup at catcher, Eric Fryer, was designated for assignment.
In other moves Friday, outfielder Randal Grichuk and reliever Zach Duke were activated from the disabled list (Grichuk the 10-day list, Duke the 60-day). They take the spots of outfielder Magneuris Sierra and right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala, who were optioned to the minors after Thursday’s loss to the Mets. Tuivailala was sent to Memphis, Sierra to Double-A Springfield.
Kelly, 23, was the starting catcher on the Pacific Coast League All-Star team this season. He batted .283 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 83 games at Memphis. The 2015 winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove award as the best defensive catcher in Minor League Baseball, Kelly leads the PCL in total chances (597) and putouts (559) while ranking fifth in runners caught stealing (26.7 percent).
Kelly made his major league debut in 2016. He batted .154 with one RBI in 13 at-bats over 10 games.
Fryer, 31, was batting .155 with three RBIs in 71 at-bats (34 games) for the Cardinals. He went 1-for-3 in Thursday’s loss at New York.
Grichuk returns from a DL stint (lower back) that was retroactive to July 10. He is batting .215 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs in 61 games this season.
Duke, 34, underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2016 offseason and missed all of spring training and the first 3 1/2 months of this season. The left-hander three nine scoreless innings in nine rehab appearances between the rookie league Gulf Coast Cardinals, Class A Palm Beach and Memphis. Obtained at the trade deadline from the White Sox last July, Duke was 0-1 with a 1.93 ERA over 23 1/3 innings with St. Louis.
Sierra has hit .365 (19-for-52) over 13 games in three stints with St. Louis this season. Tuivailala was 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 18 appearances covering 21 innings with the Cardinals.