The Cardinals announced Saturday that Joe Kelly will be taking the spot of Lance Lynn in the starting rotation. While this move is a difficult one to make, since Lynn pitched so well in the first half of the season, it is clearly the right choice by manager Mike Matheny to chance things up.
"He just needs a break," Matheny said when asked about moving Lynn to the bullpen. "A little change of scenery should do him good."
Lynn, an All-Star selection in 2012, started this campaign at a blistering pace. The Cardinal right-hander won his first six starts of the regular season and had an ERA of 1.40 on May 7. Lynn continued to dominate throughout much of the month of May, but began to struggle in June. He posted an ERA of 5.67 in the month of June and a losing record of 2-3.
In July though, the Cardinals' ace got back on track. Lynn posted a 3-0 record along with an ERA of 2.63 early on, before struggling again. In his final start of the month he gave up six runs to the Chicago Cubs over five innings. Lynn was still able to get the win in the game, but it certainly was not the kind of start that he wanted to end the month on.
Things only got worse for Lynn in August. So far this month, Lynn has posted an ERA of 6.56 and has yet to pitch into the seventh inning of a game. In fact, in his last three starts he has failed to reach even the sixth inning. To make matters worse, in his last start Friday night, Lynn was pulled after only two innings.
While things have not been so bright in the second half of the season for Lynn, things have been the polar opposite for St. Louis right-hander Joe Kelly. Although his 4-5 record does not show it, Kelly has flourished for the Cardinals and deserves a spot in this rotation.
The 24-year-old rookie from Anaheim, California has posted an ERA of 3.26 for the Cardinals since he was called up in early June. In 12 starts this season, Kelly has eight quality starts, 11 starts in which he allowed three runs or less and nine starts in which he has allowed seven hits or less.
While he has not been extremely dominant, Kelly has been a model for consistency in the St. Louis rotation. Lynn while dominant at the beginning of the year, has not been a model of consistency for St. Louis.
While it is hard to move an All-Star pitcher to the bullpen and replace him with a rookie, Mike Matheny should be applauded for his decision. Kelly has pitched better than Lynn over the past couple of months and has earned this spot in the rotation and Matheny has rewarded him.
Certainly though, this is not the end of Lynn as a starter in St. Louis. Lynn showed an ability to be a dominant starter throughout the beginning of the season, and he simply may be fatigued a little from his first year as a starter in the majors.
Lynn and Kelly have the tools to be great starters in the St. Louis rotation over the next few years. But right now there is one spot open and manager Matheny did the right thing by giving it to Kelly.