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Cards prospect Kelly to make debut Sunday

ST. View Full Game Coverage LOUIS -- Right-hander Joe Kelly will make his Major League debut on Sunday after being selected to replace Jaime Garcia in the Cardinals' rotation.

Kelly, who turns 24 on Saturday, earned the promotion over Brandon Dickson largely because of merit. Kelly has pitched at least seven innings in each of his last three starts for Triple-A Memphis, allowing 16 hits and just three earned runs over a 22-inning span. Dickson, on the other hand, endured a long period of minimal activity when called up to fill a spot in the Cardinals' bullpen last month.

"It would have been a little unfair to push Dickson, given that he hasn't pitched a lot in the last three weeks," said general manager John Mozeliak. And as for Kelly: "He's been throwing really well. ... His recent success allows for this promotion."

Kelly is expected to travel to St. Louis on Saturday, and he will be pitching Sunday on five days of rest. If he continues to pitch well, he could be a long-term fit in the rotation, which is expected to be without Garcia until at least August.

"He's had a few really nice starts down there," manager Mike Matheny said of Kelly, whom he got a look at during big league camp. "The Triple-A staff has been impressed with how he's gone about it and has really taken the next step that he needed to take."

In 12 starts for Memphis, Kelly is 2-5 with a 2.86 ERA. That ERA was the second lowest in the Pacific Coast League, and Kelly has allowed just two home runs in 72 1/3 innings.

In order to free up a spot for Kelly on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals released injured reliever Scott Linebrink following Friday's 6-2 loss to the Indians.

Jaime Garcia