Manager Mike Matheny’s announcement that Jaime Garcia will be rejoining the rotation after a stint on the disabled list and that Joe Kelly will be moved to the bullpen should get you mildly hot and bothered. While Kelly has impressed in 12 starts (3.51 ERA), Garcia’s return will only serve to strengthen an already rock-solid rotation through the return of a lefty whose ERA the past two years was an 2.70 and a 3.56. While his ERA this season pre-injury was a middling 4.48, Garcia has said that his arm had been injured since spring training and that after a 60-day stay on the DL, it finally feels like his old arm again. After his last rehab outing this past Tuesday, where he fanned eight batters in five encouraging innings of work, Garcia had this to say about his signature pitch: “My sinker was good. I’m excited to see that back. That pitch has been big for me the last couple of years. It’s something I kind of lost with the injury.” Armed with his sinker and a healthy shoulder for the first time since last season, Garcia should remind us why he received that 4 yr./$27.5 million contract this past off season. The move will also strengthen an already formidable bullpen, as Kelly can serve as the team’s much-needed righty stopper in the middle innings as well as a long reliever who can successfully eat up innings when called upon.
Bottom line: With the NL wild card race really starting to heat up, the return of a healthy Jaime Garcia to the rotation with Joe Kelly moving to the bullpen only strengthens both pitching units. The Cards are now set and are in a great position to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and take full control of the crowded second wildcard spot.