WASHINGTON -- The strain placed on the Cardinals' bullpen after Joe Kelly's early exit on Wednesday prompted the club to add relievers Eric Fornataro and Jorge Rondon prior to Thursday's series opener against the Nationals.
Roster space for the two right-handers was created by placing Kelly on the disabled list and optioning Keith Butler to Triple-A.
Butler was likely to be unavailable on Thursday after throwing 26 pitches in his relief appearance the day before. It was just the second time he had pitched since being the last reliever named to the Cardinals' staff out of Spring Training.
Adding Rondon and Fornataro can also help the Cardinals stay away from Seth Maness, who threw a combined 40 pitches in appearances on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Brewers.
Both Fornataro and Rondon were already on the team's 40-man roster and made strong spring impressions. Rondon was the only pitcher in camp to stay around until the end and not allow a run. He pitched 9 1/3 innings and worked around nine hits and five walks.
"That was one of the things I wanted to improve on was trying to throw more strikes," Rondon said, with catcher Tony Cruz serving as translator. "I did feel like I had been trying to pick the corners a little too much instead of using the corners and trusting my stuff."
In five appearances with Memphis, Rondon allowed six hits and three runs.
Fornataro was sent to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, but he has had as strong of a start to the season as anyone in the Memphis bullpen. Prior to the callup, he made four scoreless appearances, allowing one hit and notching a save.
"It's just exactly what we told every one of those guys when we sent them down," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's going to come down to who is throwing the best at that time. You want to be that guy, just stay sharp and continue to work on certain things. We gave them all things to work on and it was very obvious that Eric had worked on some of those staying inside the zone and using the sinker."
Rondon, who grew up in Richmond, Va., said his father was driving up to attend Thursday's game at Nationals Park. The first appearances by Rondon and Fornataro will be their respective Major League debuts.
Martinez isn't rotation option in Kelly's absence
WASHINGTON -- Though the Cardinals are unsure just how long a recovery is ahead for Joe Kelly, who sustained a left hamstring strain on Wednesday and is on the 15-day disabled list, the organization will have to find another fifth starter for at least the next two times through the rotation.
Though Carlos Martinez made a strong spring case for inclusion in the Opening Day rotation, it does not appear the Cardinals will turn to him now. Rather, they are prepared to dip into their Triple-A depth to find help there. Manager Mike Matheny would not say on Thursday whether the club has already settled on who will start Monday's contest against the Mets at Citi Field.
Tyler Lyons, who made eight starts as a midseason rotation addition for the Cardinals last season, is one candidate. Lyons pitched on Wednesday, so Monday would be his next scheduled day to take the mound. In three starts with Triple-A Memphis, he is 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.105 WHIP. He is also already on the team's 40-man roster.
Tim Cooney, who would have to be added to the roster, could be another option. He last pitched on Tuesday and has led Memphis to wins in each of his first three starts. He has given up four earned runs on 16 hits in 17 2/3 innings. Cooney has five walks and 17 strikeouts.
Both Cooney and Lyons are left-handed. The Cardinals currently have an all-right-handed rotation.
As for Martinez, Matheny said he's hesitant to pull the 22-year-old righty out of his role as a setup reliever if Kelly is not facing an extended absence. Martinez, who has not started since Spring Training, would have to build his pitch count back up, meaning his first start would be in a piggybacking situation.
"You'd be looking at stretching him out just to slow him back down again," Matheny said. "This is one of those scenarios where we just don't know how long it's going to be [for Kelly]. It's not set in stone, and I think you take that risk of pulling [Martinez] out, getting him going just to slow him back down if things [with Kelly] progress quickly. If it was something we knew would create a spot for a long time, we would definitely have him in consideration. But right now, we're going to stick with him in the bullpen."
• Matheny said that Jaime Garcia is expected to throw about 35 pitches in an extended spring training appearance on Saturday. Garcia remains in Jupiter, Fla., where he is recovering from left shoulder bursitis.
• Matheny said he has taken notice of the strong starts some of the organization's Minor League players have had and singled out outfielders James Ramsey and Joey Butler. Ramsey, ranked as the Cardinals' No. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com, and playing for Double-A Springfield, entered Thursday batting .402 with eight extra-base hits (including four homers) and 11 RBIs. Butler has a .485 average through 13 games with Triple-A Memphis. He has hit three home runs and driven in 10.
"It's just nice to see those guys leave Spring Training and take some of those steps that we saw in spring now applied into an everyday situation," Matheny said. "They are some exciting players. It will be fun to watch as they go through the long haul."
• The Cardinals announced that tickets for their 10th annual Purina Pooches in the Ballpark event, to be held on June 14, will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. CT. Those tickets, which can be purchased at cardinals.com/pooches, are $135 per person and include participation in a pregame parade.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.