The Cardinals announced the following transaction about an hour before today’s game:
8/22/21: Optioned RHP Junior Fernandez to AAA Memphis. Activated LHP Kwang Hyun Kim from the 10-day IL.
Kim is going to the bullpen after making 19 starts. Neither Wainwright, Flaherty nor Mikolas are going to the bullpen, so the question was whether Kim was going to bump either Jon Lester or J.A. Happ out of the rotation. The answer, at least right now, appears to be no. Lester and Happ were among the worst starters in the game by DRA- at the time of their trades. In his 19 starts, Kim has kept the ball in the yard and on the ground at a better clip than both Lester and Happ and his numbers across the board are better than Lester’s. Happ has had a little trouble with the long ball, but he had a very nice start his last time out. Lester, on the other hand, has been knocked around the yard pretty good and has walked more batters than he has struck out in his four Cardinal starts.
Kim had just one rehab start for AAA Memphis on August 19th, where he threw 2 innings, faced 8 batters and struck out 2, but also allowed 2 homers. Rehab assignments for pitchers are permitted for up to 30 days, and the club could have given Kim a couple of additional rehab starts to stretch him out. The feeling was that Kim wasn’t ready to start now, the rotation had stabilized and Kim could contribute right now in long relief. In the pre-game interview with Jimmy Hayes, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak even used the word “piggyback.”
The Cards still have an 8-man bullpen, which is now evenly split between lefties and righties. Junior Fernandez was optioned simply because he was the only reliever with minor league options remaining that the club would actually option, as Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes aren’t going anywhere.
Cabrera (L), Garcia, Gallegos, Kim (L), McFarland (L), A. Miller (L), Ponce de Leon, Reyes