Cardinals 6, Braves 2
After Joe Kelly had wrapped up a three-hit game and the longest start by a Cardinals pitcher this spring, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was informed that Kelly wasn’t yet guaranteed a spot in the St. Louis rotation.
“You know what,” Gonzalez responded, “I could use him.”
The Braves’ starting options have thinned considerably over the past week with both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy facing the likelihood of Tommy John surgery. Mike Minor won’t be ready to start the season either. The Cardinals have had their own pitching injury (Jaime Garcia) to deal with, but Saturday was a reminder of how well positioned they still are.
Both Kelly and Carlos Martinez stepped up their pursuit of a rotation spot with strong outings this week. It appears the final rotation spot will go to one of the two; the other one will end up in a bullpen role, likely an important one. The Cardinals have not given any indication of how long they’re willing to let this competition continue. What they’re enjoying now is watching the competition brew.
“There are some clubhouses that don’t have what we have where the guys are actually pulling for each other,” manager Mike Matheny said. “They have their own agenda and things they want to accomplish, but when I keep talking about competing, it’s really for them to be the best they can be. Yeah, we have decisions to make. But they’ve got to go out and not sell short what they can do. That’s what I think we’ve been watching the last couple starts.”
To read more reaction to Kelly’s all-around standout day, click here.
One other nugget about Kelly’s day (at the plate): He doesn’t plan to brag about it — not even to Adam Wainwright, who Kelly said has mentioned his above-average offensive skills a time or two in the clubhouse.
“I probably won’t say anything,” Kelly said. “I’ll wait to see if he says anything to me.”
Matheny, however, expects the news will travel quickly: “I’m sure Waino can’t wait to get out there and get his shot at it.” Lucky for Wainwright, he’ll get that chance tomorrow.
Unfortunate for Kelly, the pitchers did not make any friendly wagers this spring related to hitting.
After going six consecutive games without a win, the Cardinals have bounced back to win four straight and nearly pull their record back to .500. That’s pretty meaningless down here in spring, but I think it is notable that behind each of these four wins has been a strong start. Consider:
March 12: Carlos Martinez — 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K
March 13: Lance Lynn — 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K
March 14: Michael Wacha — 3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
March 15: Joe Kelly — 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K
Spring Training stats can be all-around misleading, but there has been plenty to like (not just in the line scores) with these last four performances. If you look at most of the troublesome outings by Cardinals pitchers this spring, they have come from players who are not expected to break camp with the big league club.
On a side note, I will be off (to catch my breath) for the next three days. Normal coverage will continue at cardinals.com (from someone other than me), but there likely won’t be much activity on the blog.
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