CHICAGO -- A recently overworked bullpen received another fresh arm on Saturday, as the Cardinals added left-hander Tyler Lyons to the 25-man roster before an afternoon game against the Cubs. Lefty reliever Sam Freeman, who pitched 1 1/3 innings on Friday, was optioned to Triple-A Memphis in a corresponding move.
The plan to call up Lyons for the third time this season was put in motion while Jake Westbrook was struggling early in Friday's game. Scheduled to start for Memphis on Friday, Lyons found out about three hours before first pitch that he had been scratched. A few hours later, he received details about taking an early-morning flight to Chicago.
"I'm excited and just anxious to start pitching," Lyons said on Saturday. "I'm not too worried about what role it is exactly. Whenever I hear my name called, I'll be ready to pitch -- and hopefully go out there and do my job."
Lyons last appeared in relief in 2011, when he was pitching for high-A Palm Beach. That will be his role for now, though, as the Cardinals have been struggling to find sufficient rest for their relievers. In the four games played since the team's last off-day, the Cardinals' bullpen has had to cover 18 innings. Two extra-inning games inflated that count, but the Cardinals are also not receiving many quality starts from their rotation. Since the beginning of this 7-15 stretch, the Cardinals have just five starts of at least seven innings. Ten times, their starter hasn't even finished six. In order to try to offset fatigue, the Cards have had to dip down to the Minors regularly for pitching help.
"We've had some young guys do very well, but we have to have fresh arms keep coming in if we're going to keep pitching as much as we have," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's going to continue unless our starters can get us deep into games."
With Lyons' ability to give the Cardinals length out of the bullpen, Michael Wacha should be freed up to pitch in high-leverage spots again. Since moving Joe Kelly to the rotation last month, the Cards have not had a true long reliever in their bullpen.
Lyons is 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA in his seven starts with the Cardinals this season. Since being summoned to pitch in the second game of the Cards' doubleheader on July 30, Lyons has only pitched twice with Memphis. He last pitched on Aug. 10.
"Obviously, for me, I'm not going to worry too much about that," said Lyons, when asked about his expected length of stay this time. "I just want to worry about pitching, and hopefully I find a way to get comfortable doing whatever role it is I'm doing."
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.