Jaime Garcia Injury: Joe Kelly Will Take To Bullpen As Garcia Rejoins Cardinals Rotation

The St. Louis Cardinals will move Joe Kelly to the bullpen to make room for Jaime Garcia's return to the rotation following a shoulder injury.

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Jaime Garcia Dominant In Return To St. Louis Cardinals Rotation

The St. Louis Cardinals lost a heartbreaker in 19 innings Sunday, but 13 innings or so before that they were treated to some of the best pitching of Jaime Garcia's career. He struck out 10 without walking a batter—not bad for a guy who'd just spent two months on the disabled list with shoulder problems. Garcia's reappearance in the rotation comes with a month-or-so left in the season—just in time for him to be an Important Figure in the Cardinals' increasingly tough stretch run.

It's easy to forget: Jaime Garcia is probably the second-best pitcher in the Cardinals rotation. His career xFIP is 3.49, and despite ERA telling the opposite narrative his first season was probably his worst; he's been better since. He also pushes Joe Kelly into the intermittently beleaguered bullpen, which is great.

The integrity of his shoulder is an ongoing concern, as is his declining velocity, but right now he's left no doubt about his effectiveness. As long as his fastball is faster than his changeup, it seems like he'll be able to periodically strike out a bunch of Pirates.

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St. Louis Cardinals Will Count On Joe Kelly For Bullpen Help After Jaime Garcia's Return

The St. Louis Cardinals liked what they saw from Jaime Garcia in his four rehab starts following a long layoff caused by shoulder discomfort, but Joe Kelly's 12 impressive turns in their rotation might have earned the bespectacled rookie a permanent role on the club after all—as designated bullpen savior.

Kelly, a college closer, will move into the bullpen immediately upon Jaime Garcia's return to the rotation on Sunday. At that point the Cardinals will have thrown their fourth hard-throwing right-handed prospect into their back-of-the-bullpen black hole; here's hoping he's more successful than Eduardo Sanchez and Maikel Cleto and steadier than Trevor Rosenthal, whom he's likely to push back to AAA Memphis for a few more starts.

Kelly's repertoire is stereotypical Duncan-ball starter stuff—a sinker and a bunch of junky breaking pitches—but few were counting on his fastball to stick so doggedly to the mid-90s label every other prospect gets now. In the bullpen, that stuff might suddenly prove up to getting the swings and misses that have kept him from being a top prospect as a starter.

Count on this, though: Whatever he does, we're about to have a long argument in the offseason about whether he belongs in the rotation or the bullpen. Just in case you were missing that particular Lance Lynn argument.

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