ST. LOUIS -- On April 16, just three weeks after learning that he had been named the team's fifth starter, Joe Kelly saw his season come to a halt when he strained his left hamstring sprinting down the first-base line at Miller Park. Now he's poised to head back to the Brewers' home ballpark ready to announce his return.
Kelly rejoined the Cardinals on Wednesday and made it official that he will come off the disabled list on Friday to start the series opener in Milwaukee. It will be his first start since that day in April, not counting the three rehab outings he completed with Triple-A Memphis.
"It's definitely a good day to come back," Kelly said. "I want to go back and pitch well there. It's exciting. I haven't played Major League Baseball in two and a half months. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm definitely excited."
Kelly threw a bullpen session with Memphis on Tuesday, the final hurdle before he could be cleared to make a start in the Majors. He threw 72 pitches in his final rehab start, on Sunday, which means he'll likely be limited to about 90 in his return.
Kelly admitted that he gave everything he had to get through those 72 pitches. The quality of his pitches, though, improved each time out.
"The first [rehab start], I didn't know where the ball was going," he said. "It was different being out there again. I would say it felt similar to throwing my bullpen [session] right before Spring Training. I quickly got better, started locating with my fastball a little better, throwing my offspeed over the plate for a strike. I think every time I went out there, I got better and stronger."
With the All-Star break on the horizon, the Cardinals will be able to give Kelly extra days to recover before his turn in the rotation comes around again.
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.