SAN DIEGO -- Wednesday marked Joe Kelly's fourth start since returning from the disabled list, yet he continues to wait for his fastball command to also make a similar return.
Kelly lasted five innings in the Cardinals' 12-1 loss to the Padres. The game turned ugly long after he exited, though Kelly had his troubles, too, particularly with his fastball. It's a pitch that has been unreliable for the right-hander since missing nearly three months on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
"It's running a lot," Kelly said of the pitch. "It's just something that I have to learn how to control here and be better at next time. I've been throwing good off-speed pitches, I feel, in all these games. My curveball was my best pitch today. I should have thrown it 100 times. But you can't do that, obviously. It definitely all starts with the fastball."
Kelly has pitched past the fifth only once in his four July starts. That was in a July 19 gem, a start that was arguably the best of his career. It has since been followed up with two subpar performances. He scattered seven hits while making his first career start against the Padres on Wednesday and has now allowed 16 runs in 19 2/3 innings since rejoining the rotation.
"I thought he was OK," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's amazing how it looked like he had good pitches that were getting hit hard at times. It should have worked out a little better for him."
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.