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Kelly nears Minor League rehab assignment

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ST. LOUIS -- After throwing another side session on Thursday, Joe Kelly said he hopes to go on a Minor League rehab assignment as early as next week. He intends, though, to show some restraint when he finally returns to the field.

Kelly shouldn't be physically held back by anything, as he has given his left hamstring two months to heal and has had no lingering tightness since resuming his mound throwing and increasing his agility drills. Rather, the restraint will be by choice.

"I'm not going to try ever for the rest of the season," Kelly said, when asked about running sprints. "I can get by with three-quarters [effort]. I'm going to be good enough to run faster than your average hitter. I'm going to be smart about it. … I'm not going to try to be beating bunts out."

Trying to beat out a bunt, of course, is what landed Kelly on the disabled back on April 17.

The recovery since has been longer than Kelly anticipated, but progress has been steadily made in recent weeks. He has now thrown three bullpen sessions and expects to have one more before heading out for a rehab stint. Kelly has also resumed controlled running. His focus now is to work through fielding drills and to get himself back into pitching condition.

He was fortunate in that he only briefly stopped throwing during the recovery process. He was able to continue to play catch even when he had to halt all other baseball activities.

"I feel like I'm good," Kelly said. "My arm is fine. Everything is fine. It's just about putting it all together now for a consistent basis."

The Cardinals plan to have Kelly build up the arm strength to be a starter, suggesting that he'll make several Minor League starts once he begins a rehab assignment. How the Cardinals then use him in St. Louis will be dictated by whatever the need is at the time.

"We need all kinds of options because you just never know what's going to happen," manager Mike Matheny said. "We'll just continue to try and get guys healthy and have everybody that we can and put together the best roster that we can. You're going to have those periods where you're a little beat up, but having somebody like Joe gives us options. We want everybody healthy so we can make those tough decisions."

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.

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