ST. LOUIS -- Pleased with the progress Jaime Garcia made during four Minor League rehab starts, the Cardinals will insert the left-hander back into the rotation on Sunday. The start will come against Pittsburgh, and the timing of it allows Garcia to get his normal four days of rest after pitching on Tuesday.
In his last Minor League appearance, Garcia tossed 93 pitches in Tuesday's five-inning start for Triple-A Memphis. He returned to St. Louis on Wednesday and declared himself fully healthy and ready to contribute.
"I have some confidence back and I feel like my timing is where it needs to be with my pitches," Garcia said. "Most importantly, my shoulder is feeling good. When you rehab from a shoulder, it's tough to get the feeling back, the feeling of making pitches and trusting your stuff. It's a little more complicated than the elbow. But like I said, this start was definitely big for me to get some of that confidence back."
Garcia's return gives the Cardinals a left-handed starter for the first time since Garcia's last start, which came on June 5. He lasted only two innings and gave up six runs in that outing. The next day, Garcia was placed on the disabled list and diagnosed with a left shoulder impingement.
He shut down from throwing for about a month before restarting the process of strengthening his shoulder. And by eclipsing the 90-pitch mark on Tuesday, Garcia should be ready to throw at least 100 pitches in his first start back.
In the 11 starts Garcia made before landing on the DL, he went 3-4 with a 4.48 ERA. Ten of the 33 earned runs he allowed came in the two starts that immediately preceded Garcia's shutdown.
"It's tough to say that the team needs me because the starting pitchers have been doing an unbelievable job," Garcia said. "But I'm definitely really excited. I've been working hard these two months to get back out there and try and help my teammates."
In order to make room for Garcia to rejoin the rotation, the Cardinals have announced plans to move Joe Kelly to the bullpen. Kelly made 12 starts for St. Louis while Garcia was sidelined.