CHICAGO -- The Cardinals began their series against the Cubs with six roster moves, including the promotion of baseball's top catching prospect and the return of a veteran reliever who underwent Tommy John surgery less than 10 months ago.Carson Kelly, Zach Duke and Randal Grichuk joined the team in Chicago
CHICAGO -- The Cardinals began their series against the Cubs with six roster moves, including the promotion of baseball's top catching prospect and the return of a veteran reliever who underwent Tommy John surgery less than 10 months ago.
Carson Kelly, Zach Duke and Randal Grichuk joined the team in Chicago and all contributed to Friday's 11-4 win over the Cubs. To make room on the roster for the trio, the Cardinals optioned Magneuris Sierra to Double-A and Sam Tuivailala to Triple-A. Eric Fryer was designated for assignment.
About two hours before first pitch on Friday, Kelly learned that he'd be catching Carlos Martinez for the first time in a big league game. Yadier Molina had to be scratched due to a sore right ankle that was inhibiting his movement. Kelly went on to help key Friday's nine-run eighth with a two-run double.
Kelly will serve as a backup to Molina, who will continue to earn the bulk of starts behind the plate. The Cardinals envision Kelly's role growing in subsequent years, but even that, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak cautioned, will come slowly.
"Our belief is that Yadi will help mentor and grow Carson," Mozeliak said. "But when you look at expectations for Yadi to play every day, they're still very high. The timing [of this move] was more of when you look at the success he was having at Triple-A and you look at the way our club was playing, and trying to find that little extra spark when he gets his opportunities is something we felt was important."
Kelly, ranked by MLBPipleine.com as the organization's No. 2 prospect, arrives having hit .283 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in 83 games at Triple-A Memphis. He made his Major League debut as a September callup last year, and he made two starts at catcher.
Grichuk was a critical piece in Friday's lineup, too, driving in the first run with his 10th homer of the season and contributing an RBI single in the eighth. He missed seven games while on the disabled list with a lower back strain, and he appeared in one Double-A game on a rehab assignment Wednesday.
"It was just getting that inflammation out, relaxing those muscles," Grichuk said of his time away. "And once that happened, it went pretty quickly from there."
Duke could say the same about his recovery from offseason elbow surgery. Initially hopeful of salvaging a few weeks of the 2017 season, he'll now get more than two months to help stabilize the Cardinals' bullpen and rebuild his own value ahead of free agency this winter.
Duke began a Minor League rehab assignment the last day of June, and he made nine scoreless appearances across three levels. Combined, he allowed four runs, one walk and struck out 10.
"I was kind of going through this process expecting setbacks or kind of preparing for the worst. They didn't come along," Duke said. "I'm very surprised to be here right now. I'm very thankful."
Manager Mike Matheny wasted no time getting Duke involved, either, as he sent him in to open the seventh with the Cardinals trailing, 3-2, on Friday. Duke retired two batters on six pitches.
"He really surprised all of us in the sense of being back and being able to contribute this month," Mozeliak said. "I really thought that if we saw him sometime in August, that would be great, and he really sped it up."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.