Joe Kelly came of age on a pitchers’ mound last season when he was part of a stellar staff that guided the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2013 World Series. That time seems so long ago, and it might be a while before the Kelly of old reappears in a Cardinals uniform.
On Monday, Kelly and the team agreed to suspend his throwing sessions because his left hamstring was not responding well to treatment. Kelly, who had a 1-1 record and a 0.96 ERA this season, left his start Apr. 16 against the Milwaukee Brewers when he strained the hamstring.
With Kelly sidelined for three weeks and likely a little longer, the Cardinals’ pitching staff takes a bit of a hit — although in all honesty it is the pitching that has kept the Cardinals as respectable as they have been. With Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller throwing well, the team has a 16-16 record through its first 32 games.
Kelly would be the team’s fifth starter on this squad because the pitching staff is so strong, but instead Tyler Lyons has been thrown into the fray. His start against the Atlanta Braves this week is against one of the strongest teams in the major leagues, and Lyons has gotten off to an 0-2 start.
There is no question Kelly is a gamer. He wants back in that lineup, if only to help the Cardinals shake out of an early-season slump that has them looking up at the Brewers in the National League Central.
The Cardinals may be right to hold Kelly out until the hamstring gets better, but he should feel frustrated. After a 10-5 record in 2013 and a strong postseason, Kelly hoped to use that as a springboard into better things ahead. The Cardinals could use a few more arms back in the lineup like Kelly and Jaime Garcia if one of the big starters gets injured.
The Cardinals have a plan, and there is no need to get away from it right now. The season is just over one month old. Provided the Brewers don’t run away with the division, St. Louis figures to contend through the summer and fall.
Kelly, however, wants to contend in a different way. He wants to show that 2013 was not just one season of great success. This year would be perfect to post a back-to-back 10-win season or better.
For now Kelly is sidelined with no idea when he will start throwing again.
His frustration grows.