ST. LOUIS -- With Tyler Lyons heading back to Triple-A Memphis, the Cardinals are in need of a fifth starter in the rotation. But with three off-days in the next two weeks, the Cardinals will have ample time to sort it out.
"We've drawn up easily a dozen models already, trying to think of the pros and cons of each," manager Mike Matheny said. "The off-days offer some options. … We don't have to make a decision today, so we're not going to."
Matheny said if there is a start to be had, Joe Kelly will get the call. Kelly filled in for a spot start on June 5, when the rotation was knocked off track by a rainout that was rescheduled into a doubleheader. If an opportunity arises for a starter to get an additional day of rest, Matheny said it will likely go to rookie Shelby Miller.
"It's just a lot of puzzle work to see how that fits," Matheny said.
Kelly has made a strong case to be considered a long-term option. The 25-year-old righty has shown an ability to stretch out for extended appearances on short notice. He tossed 80 pitches in the June 5 start, allowing one earned run on four hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings, and filled in after Lyons' early exit Friday with another 77 pitches, with no earned runs, five hits and no walks in five innings. He also threw 62 pitches over three innings against the Dodgers last month.
"I wouldn't say it's the hardest thing to do," Kelly said. "I come to the field and prepare the same way. I read the situation. If it's going to be an inning, I know it's going to be an inning. If I know we need to eat some innings, I know what I'm going out there for. It's a little different, but it's not undoable."
Kelly was 4-6 in 16 starts as a rookie last season, allowing 38 earned runs on 97 hits and 32 walks in 91 1/3 innings. Matheny said unless they go a different direction with the rotation in the next few days, Kelly's next move will be to throw a bullpen in preparation for a potential fill-in start.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.