WASHINGTON -- Though the Cardinals are unsure just how long a recovery is ahead for Joe Kelly, who sustained a left hamstring strain on Wednesday and is on the 15-day disabled list, the organization will have to find another fifth starter for at least the next two times through the rotation.
Though Carlos Martinez made a strong spring case for inclusion in the Opening Day rotation, it does not appear the Cardinals will turn to him now. Rather, they are prepared to dip into their Triple-A depth to find help there. Manager Mike Matheny would not say on Thursday whether the club has already settled on who will start Monday's contest against the Mets at Citi Field.
Tyler Lyons, who made eight starts as a midseason rotation addition for the Cardinals last season, is one candidate. Lyons pitched on Wednesday, so Monday would be his next scheduled day to take the mound. In three starts with Triple-A Memphis, he is 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.105 WHIP. He is also already on the team's 40-man roster.
Tim Cooney, who would have to be added to the roster, could be another option. He last pitched on Tuesday and has led Memphis to wins in each of his first three starts. He has given up four earned runs on 16 hits in 17 2/3 innings. Cooney has five walks and 17 strikeouts.
Both Cooney and Lyons are left-handed. The Cardinals currently have an all-right-handed rotation.
As for Martinez, Matheny said he's hesitant to pull the 22-year-old righty out of his role as a setup reliever if Kelly is not facing an extended absence. Martinez, who has not started since Spring Training, would have to build his pitch count back up, meaning his first start would be in a piggybacking situation.
"You'd be looking at stretching him out just to slow him back down again," Matheny said. "This is one of those scenarios where we just don't know how long it's going to be [for Kelly]. It's not set in stone, and I think you take that risk of pulling [Martinez] out, getting him going just to slow him back down if things [with Kelly] progress quickly. If it was something we knew would create a spot for a long time, we would definitely have him in consideration. But right now, we're going to stick with him in the bullpen."
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.