Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Garcia's Return Opens Options for Pitching Staff; CARDINALS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Garcia's Return Opens Options for Pitching Staff; CARDINALS

Article excerpt

The new fan favorite, Joe Kelly, isn't going anywhere. Well, yes, technically he's headed to the bullpen. But that's not so far away, just a short jog from the pitcher's mound. Kelly will be just behind the right-field fence at Busch Stadium, hanging out with the other Cardinals relievers until the telephone rings, people jump, and it's time to jump.

The Cardinals made it official Wednesday afternoon: the freshly rehabilitated Jaime Garcia will be removed from the disabled list later in the week, and he'll start against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. Kelly will provide relief, at least for a while. And Lance Lynn will remain in the rotation.

Stuck on the DL with a shoulder strain since June 7, Garcia says he is fit and fired up after making four minor-league rehab starts. For the Cardinals, this decision was automatic. Garcia signed a four- year contract extension worth $27 million last summer, and a team doesn't pay that kind of wage to a setup reliever.

As long as Garcia is feeling good, and he is confident in the shoulder, then there is nothing to decide. He goes on Sunday, period. Garcia is a finicky pitcher, and yes he can be irritating, but the style flaws are minor. His talent matters, and that's why he's set for immediate re-entry.

In Garcia's two-plus years as a starter, his 3.37 ERA ranks ninth among all major league lefthanders. His fielding-independent ERA (3.30) is even more impressive, ranking fifth to Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner and CC Sabathia among major league lefties.

It's not as if the Cardinals are shoving Kelly to the bullpen to make room for, say, Mike Maroth.

If you want to debate Kelly vs. Lynn, then we have something to discuss.

Lynn dominated early on, going 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA through the end of May. Lynn has fired his way through several imposing starts since then, and impressed so many NL players that they voted him onto the NL All-Star squad. But Lynn's inconsistency is glaring. He has a 5.43 ERA over his past 10 starts, and routinely takes a beating in the first innings of games.

The Cardinals are still trying to solve that particular mystery. (One idea? Work harder between starts. Follow the leaders.) When Lynn is right, he's nasty. He has the Wow Factor. And should a team rush to demote an All-Star pitcher to the bullpen?

Answer: no, at least not yet. Publicly, the Cardinals continue to express confidence in Lynn. And that's correct. Politically correct, perhaps. But correct.

"More than anything you just have to look at the body of work and what Lance has been able to do this season," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's been special. We've had a little bit of a hiccup with his first innings, but to me that's something that's part of the growth process for a young starter."

Lynn was a tremendous asset in the bullpen as a 2011 rookie, with a 2. …

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