Kelly pitched outstanding in 2012 as a starter after a midseason call-up, and after throwing well out of the bullpen during the playoffs last season, many figured that the 24-year-old would play a pivotal role either as a starter or reliever in 2013.
Unfortunately, for Kelly, it hasn't worked out that way. He lost the starter battler to Shelby Miller in spring training and for the most part, hasn't been good as a reliever.
In fact, in order to get Kelly back on track and pitching the way he did in 2012, general manager John Mozeliak should consider demoting him. There are several reasons why demoting Kelly now makes sense for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kelly's numbers are really bad
After posting a 5-7 record and 3.53 ERA in 24 games and 16 starts for the Cardinals in 2012, the right-hander has taken a big step backward in 2013.
Kelly currently is 0-2 on the season and is sporting an ugly 7.36 ERA. While the ERA is bad, his WHIP of 1.977 is even worst. Anytime a pitcher is allowing nearly two hitters to reach base per inning pitched, it generally is not a good thing, especially if it is happening over an extended period of time.
Not only are guys getting on base off of Kelly, but they are doing damage, too. Opponents are slugging a robust .547 off of Kelly.
These numbers are just not good enough to pitch at the major-league level. With only seven relievers in the bullpen, the Cardinals need a better contribution from this vital roster spot than what Kelly has been able to contribute.
Kelly is not being used often enough
While Kelly has clearly struggled, part of his ineffectiveness could be blamed on the fact that he has not been utilized enough. Kelly has appeared in just 14 games all season and has logged only 14.2 innings.
Kelly has not pitched since May 18 and has only appeared in six games during the month of May. This comes after a stretch from April 4-April 21 where he appeared in one game, an 18-day stretch.
If Kelly is not going to be used out of the pen, he needs to go some place where he will get work. The former third-round pick in the 2009 draft is still too young and raw to be sitting around so often, and demoting Kelly will certainly guarantee that he will get some work.
Kelly should prepare to start in case the young Cardinals rookies falter
With both Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook on the disabled list, the Cardinals are now down two starters in the rotation. They have amply replaced both veterans with left-handed rookies John Gast and Tyler Lyons for the time being. But what happens if one or both falter?
Kelly has a starter's pedigree and could make some starts if necessary, but he needs to be stretched out before doing so.
Demoting Kelly so he can get some starts down at Triple-A not only will give him an opportunity to get some work and figure things out, but it also would allow him to prepare to start later in the season for the Cardinals if the need arises.
Nobody is saying that the Cardinals should give up on Joe Kelly. He is still young and still shows a ton of promise, whether it is as a starter or reliever. But demoting Kelly now not only is in the best interest of the player and the team, but certainly is also in the best interest of both parties as the season progresses. Especially with two members of the Cardinals' starting rotation on the DL.
Kelly lost the fifth-starter competition back in spring training, but sending him down to Memphis for a few weeks may give him another chance to win a spot in the rotation the second time around.
And if the Cardinals do not need Kelly to start at some point in 2013, they do need him to be effective as a reliever and giving him some time in Memphis may be the only way to get him back on track.
You can follow Rudd on Twitter @CoreyRudd.
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