After Joe Kelly's impressive performance Tuesday, and given the Cardinals bullpen situation thanks to the loss of Brian Fuentes, I wonder of the team might be better off leaving the rookie in the rotation when Jaime Garcia returns from the disabled list.
Neither of the team's current bullpen lefties, Marc Rzepczynski and Barret Browning, have performed particularly well of late. And, when asked last night if he would try to find a lefty to replace Fuentes from outside the organization, General Manager John Mozeliak said that would be nearly impossible at this point of the season.
So what about the in-house lefty?
Putting Garcia in the bullpen for the rest of the year would give the Redbirds an excellent lefthanded option that the team isn't going to be able to find elsewhere. Plus, it offers the added benefit of limiting the wear and tear on Garcia's pitching shoulder for the rest of the season. Then in the off-season he can have plenty of time for rest and healing.
Besides, if you compare their numbers to this point of the season, Kelly has been the better starter.
They've both pitched a similar number of innings, in the high sixties range, and Kelly's ERA is more than a point lower at 3.41 compared to Garcia's 4.48.
I don't mean to suggest that Garcia will never get his job back. He's got a proven record as a starter and the Cardinals are paying him for the next three years to be a starter not a bullpenner. But Garcia might really be able to help in a relief role in the same way Adam Wainwright did in 2006 before returning to be a starter.
Imagine how many more games the Cardinals might have won this season if the bullpen wasn't constantly shooting the team in the foot in the late innings. Now that Edward Mujica is onboard, the Cardinals have the righty seventh inning guy they have craved. Mitchell Boggs has settled nicely into the set-up role and Jason Motte is doing well as closer. The last piece of the puzzle to iron out is finding a shut down lefty. And I think Garcia has a better chance to do that job for the rest of 2012 than anyone else on the roster.
If the Redbirds want to make the playoffs, putting Garcia in the bullpen might give the team it's best chance.