The Cardinals are activating left-hander Kwang-hyun Kim from the 10-day injured list before this afternoon’s game against the Pirates, manager Mike Shildt told reporters (including Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat). Reliever Junior Fernández is being optioned to Triple-A Memphis in a corresponding move.
Kim is moving to the bullpen, according to Shildt, who noted that the 32-year-old could immediately work as many as 45 pitches in multi-inning relief. Kim has missed a little less than two weeks with inflammation in his throwing elbow, and it seems St. Louis doesn’t want to run the risk of overworking him by plugging him back into the rotation. That means the Cardinals will continue to rely on Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jon Lester and J.A. Happ every fifth day.
The bullpen role will be an unfamiliar one for Kim, who has started 26 of his 27 appearances since signing with the Cards before the 2020 season. Kim’s work as a starting pitcher has been excellent, as he has a 2.84 ERA over 130 MLB innings in spite of a below-average 17.5% strikeout rate. He’s thrived by generally avoiding walks (8%) and inducing ground-balls (47.1%) while limiting hard contact. If he can continue to have that level of success in his new role, he’d be a key bullpen piece for a Cardinals team that trails the Reds and Padres by four and a half games in the race for the National League’s final playoff spot.