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Cardinals starter Joe Kelly hits disabled list with strained hamstring

Joe Kelly will be sidelined due to a strained hamstring suffered against Milwaukee. (Gene J.Puskar/AP)Joe Kelly will be sidelined due to a strained hamstring suffered against Milwaukee. (Gene J.Puskar/AP)

Tightness in his left hamstring forced Joe Kelly out from his start on Wednesday against Milwaukee, and it will keep him out of action for at least the next two weeks, as the St. Louis Cardinals placed the 25-year-old right-hander on the disabled list on Thursday. Kelly is reportedly heading back to St. Louis for an MRI exam. The initial expectation from St. Louis was that Kelly would miss at least one start, but he could be out even longer.

Kelly had been off to a solid start after earning the team’s fifth starter spot during spring training over Carlos Martinez. Through three starts, Kelly had allowed a single earned run over 15 1/3 innings, striking out nine and walking four. Against Milwaukee, Kelly had allowed just a lone unearned run on three hits over four innings, but hurt himself running to first on an infield bunt single in the fifth inning and was pulled from the game. St. Louis eventually fell to the Brewers, 5-1.

Walking with a limp in the clubhouse following the game, Kelly told MLB.com’s Jennifer Langosch, “I definitely tweaked it and it’s something I felt instantly. I called the trainer over and let him know and came out of the game. I’ve been healthy my whole life. The is the first injury. It’s kind of shocking.”

In addition to placing Kelly on the disabled list Thursday, the team also optioned reliever Keith Butler to Triple-A. Right-handers Eric Fortunato and Jorge Rondon have been recalled from Memphis to take their place on the active roster. Each should arrive in time for the start of the team’s series against the Washington Nationals and will be making their respective Major League debuts once they first get into a game. Both have been used exclusively out of the bullpen, suggesting that the aforementioned Martinez could be the most likely candidate to step into the rotation in Kelly’s place. Martinez, one of the organization’s top young arms, has been pitching well towards the back of the Cardinals' bullpen, with a 1.86 ERA and 0.931 WHIP in seven appearances totaling 9 2/3 IP, including six strikeouts and four walks.

Another candidate to replace Kelly is minor leaguer Tyler Lyons, who is currently starting in Triple-A. The 26-year-old left-hander made 12 appearances with the Cardinals in 2013, including eight starts, posting a 4.75 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 16 walks across 53 innings. In three starts in Memphis, Lyons is 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 19 innings.

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