6/20/2014 12:42 A.M. ET
Kelly nears Minor League rehab assignment
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- After throwing another side session on Thursday, Joe Kelly said he hopes to go on a Minor League rehab assignment as early as next week. He intends, though, to show some restraint when he finally returns to the field.
Kelly shouldn't be physically held back by anything, as he has given his left hamstring two months to heal and has had no lingering tightness since resuming his mound throwing and increasing his agility drills. Rather, the restraint will be by choice.
"I'm not going to try ever for the rest of the season," Kelly said, when asked about running sprints. "I can get by with three-quarters [effort]. I'm going to be good enough to run faster than your average hitter. I'm going to be smart about it. … I'm not going to try to be beating bunts out."
Trying to beat out a bunt, of course, is what landed Kelly on the disabled back on April 17.
The recovery since has been longer than Kelly anticipated, but progress has been steadily made in recent weeks. He has now thrown three bullpen sessions and expects to have one more before heading out for a rehab stint. Kelly has also resumed controlled running. His focus now is to work through fielding drills and to get himself back into pitching condition.
He was fortunate in that he only briefly stopped throwing during the recovery process. He was able to continue to play catch even when he had to halt all other baseball activities.
"I feel like I'm good," Kelly said. "My arm is fine. Everything is fine. It's just about putting it all together now for a consistent basis."
The Cardinals plan to have Kelly build up the arm strength to be a starter, suggesting that he'll make several Minor League starts once he begins a rehab assignment. How the Cardinals then use him in St. Louis will be dictated by whatever the need is at the time.
"We need all kinds of options because you just never know what's going to happen," manager Mike Matheny said. "We'll just continue to try and get guys healthy and have everybody that we can and put together the best roster that we can. You're going to have those periods where you're a little beat up, but having somebody like Joe gives us options. We want everybody healthy so we can make those tough decisions."
Miller fine after a couple of injury scares
ST. LOUIS -- Knocked around for four runs in the Cardinals' 4-1 loss to the Phillies on Thursday, Shelby Miller also left his 15th start of the season a bit beaten up.
He scraped his arm on a sliding play in the fifth and later left the game in the seventh, a few pitches after feeling a pinch in his hip. The issues were unrelated to each other, but both seemingly preventable.
It was Miller's late break to cover first base that led to a sliding play that left Miller fortunate only to suffer a few scrapes. Matt Adams made a terrific play to stop Reid Brignac's hit down the first-base line, and Miller recorded the out by beating Brignac to the base as both slid.
"I'd rather see Shelby over there on time. That's the issue," manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "You can't let a fantastic play by your first baseman surprise you. Their defense is that it's a ball they don't think is going to be fielded. It's not a good enough defense. We have to be better than that."
Miller was checked on by head trainer Greg Hauck, but it was Brignac who left with a true injury. He reacted to Miller's slide by starting one of his own and hit the bag awkwardly with his left leg.
"There really wasn't much room for me to touch the bag," Brignac said. "I probably, if I would have stayed on my feet, would have stepped on him or stepped further on the bag, which is not normal. Things could have been worse."
He hobbled off the field with a high ankle sprain. Miller met him on the way to apologize for getting in the way.
"I don't think I would have beaten him if I didn't slide. I don't think I caused the play; I think he hit the bag wrong."
Hauck was back out on the field in the seventh, when Miller landed awkwardly on an 0-1 pitch to Carlos Ruiz. Miller said afterward he fell too far off the left side of the mound, which resulted in a pinching sensation near his hip. Miller talked his way into remaining in the game and then threw four straight pitches out of the zone. His night ended there, as did any discomfort.
"That's all it was -- just that one pitch, just bad mechanics," Miller said.
The Cardinals consider it to be an isolated issue, not something that will need to be monitored.
"He's going to be fine," Matheny said. "When your mechanics fall apart like that and you're swinging and you're falling down like that after you throw, it should hurt. That's what happened. The trainers have already seen him. He looks fine. It was just a pinch from poor mechanics."
Wacha to skip next start to preserve arm
ST. LOUIS -- Though Michael Wacha threw a combined 180 1/3 innings in 2013, the Cardinals entered this season planning to once again closely monitor his workload so as not to push the young starter too far, too soon in his budding Major League career.
It is for that reason that the Cardinals have opted to skip Wacha's next start, scheduled for Sunday, and pitch Carlos Martinez in his place. Wacha is physically fine, both he and manager Mike Matheny asserted Thursday. But there was some indication that fatigue was setting in.
"There have definitely been times over the last couple starts where I was maybe getting a little bit tired," said Wacha, who has allowed eight runs on 16 hits and seven walks in his three June starts. "Obviously, I want to be out there every fifth day. But we have Carlos in a situation where he's able to fill in; he's already stretched out a little bit. I guess it's that time to do it."
Martinez is stretched out after throwing 59 pitches in a spot start for Adam Wainwright on Monday. It was the need to have him available for Sunday that led the Cardinals to keep Nick Greenwood as an eighth reliever all week. Greenwood is expected to remain in the bullpen at least through the weekend.
Wacha has logged 90 1/3 innings through 15 starts this season, putting him on pace to throw 193 innings if he were to make a full season's worth of 32 starts. On top of that is the potential for postseason innings. That's why the Cardinals are choosing to preserve pitches now.
In 2013, Wacha combined to throw 180 1/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors. Of those, 30 2/3 came in October as Wacha benefited from the Cardinals' decision to have him skip 13 days between starts at this time last summer. In this case, Wacha will go nine days between outings.
It was Wacha's start in Tampa Bay last week -- a start in which Wacha allowed a season-most four runs while searching for fastball command -- that prompted the Cardinals to look for an opportunity to rest the right-hander sooner rather than later. They probably will do so again, too, in what is Wacha's first full season in the Majors.
"I doubt it's the last time," Matheny said. "We're going to be looking to get him time. That was part of the plan when we walked into this thing."
Lyons sent back to Triple-A
ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander Tyler Lyons returned to Triple-A and resumed pitching in the Memphis rotation Thursday after being activated from the disabled list after Wednesday's game.
Lyons missed a little more than a month while nursing a left shoulder strain that cost him the opportunity to keep pitching in the Cardinals' rotation. He last pitched on Saturday, going 2 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Memphis. The Cardinals then had Lyons spend a few days in St. Louis in case the club needed to add another arm to the roster. When that wasn't needed, the decision was made to send Lyons back down so that he can get into a normal starting routine again.
Lyons started for the Redbirds on Thursday, taking the mound after his offense scored six times in the top of the first. He needed every bit of it. Lyons lasted only 3 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and six runs in the 71-pitch outing. It was his fifth appearance of the season for Memphis, with whom he allowed eight runs on 20 hits and seven walks in 21 2/3 innings before an April callup to St. Louis. The lefty made six appearances with the Cardinals before landing on the 15-day DL.
• Lefty Marco Gonzales improved to 3-2 with Double-A Springfield's win on Wednesday. Gonzales allowed two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four in 5 1/3 innings.
• The Cardinals have announced the addition of three more theme nights - 92.3 WIL Your Country On! Night (July 10), Monsanto Farmer Appreciation Night (July 22) and Career Day (Sept. 3). For more details on the events/promotions associated with each, and/or to purchase tickets, visit cardinals.com/theme.
• Cardinals reliever Jason Motte announced that he will host a Cornhole Challenge on Aug. 17, in St. Louis' Forest Park. The event will benefit Motte's foundation. More details can be found by visiting: jasonmottecornholechallenge.com.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.