Kelly could return sooner than anticipated

Kelly could return sooner than anticipated

ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals initially announced plans to delay Joe Kelly's return from the disabled list until after the All-Star break, manager Mike Matheny said on Monday that the club is leaning toward having him start in Milwaukee on Friday.

That start had been slotted for Marco Gonzales, who is instead headed to Triple-A to work out of the Memphis rotation. Kelly pitched for Memphis on Sunday, throwing 72 pitches in a 4 1/3-inning rehab start. He would have a normal four days of rest leading up to Friday's outing.

"Command looked good. He felt good," Matheny said of Kelly's outing on Sunday. "The hamstring doesn't even seem to be an issue for him right now. It's not something he even thinks about as he's running or pitching, which is first and foremost, the place we needed for him to get. Then after that it's, What does his stuff look like? He was real happy with how the ball was coming out of his hand."

If Kelly does come back on Friday, it will be in the same place where he went down nearly three months ago. It was during an April 16 start at Miller Park that Kelly strained his left hamstring trying to beat out a bunt.

The importance of the upcoming three-game series against the Brewers, as well as Kelly's performance on Sunday, both played into the decision to reconsider the original plan of having him make one more rehab start.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.