Well, I think it’s fair to say that Joe Kelly may be on notice.
Okay, so maybe it’s less official than it sounds, but the St. Louis Cardinals‘ move to bring back top prospect Carlos Martinez as a long reliever to help out a recently overworked bullpen probably has a bit more depth to it than it appears … even if it’s not a full-blown competition for a job in the back end of the rotation yet.
That’s not to say that things can’t change quickly, though.
After Kelly makes his last scheduled start before the All-Star break on July 12, the Cardinals will be able to go without a fifth starter until July 27; and with Martinez potentially getting multiple opportunities to show off his stuff out of the bullpen between now and then, let’s just say that Kelly will have to make a good impression in his next turn.
The reason? Because Martinez has been not slouch at showing his stuff as a potential starter for the redbirds either.
Aside from the fact that the fireballer showed off his stuff in an eight-inning stint in the bigs earlier in the season already with a 10.13 K/9, he’s been brilliant in Triple-A, putting together a 1.98/1.24 ERA/WHIP with a .224 BAA over eight starts.
Even though that fastball and strikeout ability will be tantalizing to bring out from the bullpen (a la Trevor Rosenthal), there is little sense as to why the team would just bring the righty in to eat an inning here and there if they have no plans to give you regular work in the rotation.
Which brings us back to Kelly, who has made just two starts this season, the latest of which came after Tyler Lyons was demotion back to the minors.
Given that precedent, you could probably say that the Cardinals have no qualms about keeping the fifth-starter situation a fluid one, and even with Chris Carpenter‘s remarkable return still looming, it’s Martinez who will have the first shot at really impressing the team to convince them that he could excel as a starter.
After all, that’s already what the team has determined he should be in his development — why change it now if the plans aren’t to translate those results in the big leagues?