The relief role, while foreign to Kelly at this level, is actually something he knows quite well. Before making 23 relief appearances as a Cardinals farmhand, Kelly served as a closer on his UC Riverside team. At the time he was drafted in 2009, Kelly held the UC Riverside career record with 24 saves.
"He understands the mindset. He understands what it's like coming out of the bullpen," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he'll adjust quickly to it. I think he's going to come back throwing a little harder."
Because he threw 97 pitches on Tuesday, Kelly won't be available out of the bullpen until Saturday, at the earliest. If the Cardinals can avoid using him until at least Sunday, that would give Kelly his normal four days of rest.
With Kelly unable to contribute immediately, the Cardinals will wait until after Saturday's game to activate Garcia and make a corresponding move that would send a reliever back to Triple-A.
Adding Kelly to the bullpen seemingly strengthens a unit that has, at times this season, been quite inconsistent. Kelly can fill a variety of roles, too. Though the Cardinals don't intend to designate Kelly as a long reliever, he certainly has the arm strength to be able to offer multiple innings of relief. Matheny said that he also won't hesitate to use Kelly in late-inning situations.
"We're excited about Joe Kelly and his future in this organization," Matheny said. "I know he's not going to be flustered by the situation. As time goes, we'll figure out exactly how that plays out. It'll work itself out."
It was Garcia's injury that initially opened a rotation spot for Kelly in early June. Since then, Kelly has made 12 starts. He's finished at least six innings in eight of them and allowed more than three earned runs in an outing only once.
Sending Kelly to the bullpen is also an indication that the Cardinals are not overly concerned by Lance Lynn's workload. Lynn, in his first full season as a big league starter, has logged 138 innings. That puts him only 26 innings away from his career-high total, set in 2010.
But instead of slowing down Lynn's inning accumulation, the Cardinals have opted to have him continue to start.
"More than anything, you have to look at the body of work of what Lance has been able to do this season. It's been special," Matheny said of Lynn, who leads the staff with 13 wins. "Lance has really done a nice job with the opportunities that have come. And the amount of work that he has taken on physically hasn't been an issue."