Jaime Garcia Injury: Garcia Nears Return, But The Cardinals Can Afford Patience

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 21: Starter Jaime Garcia #54 of the St. Louis Cardinals returns to the dugout after being pulled from the game in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium on May 21, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals have to deal, terrifyingly, with a shoulder-centered Jaime Garcia injury. What does that have to do with Joe Kelly?

The St. Louis Cardinals have been remarkably lucky about what is a legitimately terrifying Jaime Garcia injury; Joe Kelly's peripherals haven't been great, but his results have been very good so far, which is more than can usually be said for a starter who struggled in Memphis. And based on his rehab start Thursday, they could get luckier still.

Garcia's first real rehab appearance—he made a start in the Gulf Coast League, first—was very promising. With the AA Springfield Cardinals, in a relatively hitter-friendly league, the lefty struck out six in 4.1 innings, allowing two hits, one of which was a solo home run.

The Cardinals couldn't have expected much better, certainly, and another good start would make him a perfectly reasonable call-up. But will they call him up? As long as Joe Kelly continues his run of weird adequacy, and the Cardinals continue to worry neither about his peripherals nor the potential of his mid-90s sinker in the bullpen, the Cardinals could protect their young, long-term-contracted starter's gimpy shoulder for another week or two.

And I think maybe they might. This season is important, but the Cardinals have Garcia cheap through 2017. He's not having his best season, and unless he's mowing AA hitters down he's not necessarily better than Joe Kelly right now, but he's definitely better than Joe Kelly in 2013.

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