ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' starting rotation has been the gold standard in the league so far this season, as they have posted a National League-best 1.99 ERA and won a league-most seven games. The five-man unit is averaging 6 2/3 innings per start, also the highest average in the NL.
The residual effect, though, has been inconsistent work for several members of the Cardinals' bullpen. The club's relievers aren't complaining, but they are having to adjust their routines to adapt to the sporadic usage.
"It's different. It's my first time going through it," said Joe Kelly, a starter-turned-reliever who last pitched on April 7. "Right now, our starters are [thriving], so it's great. That means we're doing well as a team. It gives guys like us rest. Everyone in the bullpen is happy right now."
Kelly said he threw off the bullpen mound on Wednesday, and again Saturday, in order to keep his arm loose.
"You have to prepare the same way every day," he said, "and I'm always ready for the call."
The downtime has been even longer for Fernando Salas, whose last appearance came on April 6. Neither Marc Rzepczynski nor Randy Choate have pitched since Monday. Edward Mujica has pitched only once in the last six games.
"They're getting work [on the side]," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's just not the same kind of work as being in a game. Those times are nice, because it means the starters are going deep. We're going to go through some spurts where we're just beating them up, too. You try not to overreact one way or another [in forcing ways to get them in a game]. We just try to react in the direction that's going to give us the best chance to win that night."
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.