ST. LOUIS -- An MRI of Michael Wacha's right shoulder on Monday showed healing, though not enough for the Cardinals to clear him to begin a throwing program.
General manager John Mozeliak said that although the organization is encouraged by Wacha's improvement after two weeks of rest and rehab, Wacha will remain on the same program for another 14 days before being re-evaluated. The Cardinals have all along been hesitant to project a return date for Wacha because of how little they knew about the injury, termed a stress reaction.
"Obviously, the best news would have been that he had been cleared to throw," Mozeliak said. "He's not there yet, and I think, just taking a very proactive stance on this, this is best for him and his career. I'm sure he's frustrated and would like to be a little bit ahead of this, but I think this is just in the best interest of him. Hopefully, by the next time we do another MRI, he'll be clear."
The Cardinals have spent the past few weeks gathering more information about the injury, the root cause and treatment options. Mozeliak said the injury does not appear to be related to Wacha's mechanics but instead is a biomechanical issue that can be aided with strength work.
Monday's update comes a little more than three weeks before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, with the Cardinals still determining what needs they may address, but Mozeliak downplayed the correlation between Wacha's status and the organization's interest in acquiring another starter.
"Well, we expect to get [Joe] Kelly back ... and feel pretty confident that [the five in our rotation] can be successful," Mozeliak said. "There are probably very few pitchers we could go out and acquire without having to give up one of those to begin with. I think that would just make it problematic, so for us, we feel pretty good where we're at from a pitching standpoint."
Speaking more generally about the Trade Deadline, Mozeliak said, "I think you could say we could worry about a lot of things. The right strategy is, if we think there's an opportunity to improve, we'll try. We're not going to make a bad decision just in a panic situation."
Kelly could return sooner than anticipated
ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals initially announced plans to delay Joe Kelly's return from the disabled list until after the All-Star break, manager Mike Matheny said on Monday that the club is leaning toward having him start in Milwaukee on Friday.
That start had been slotted for Marco Gonzales, who is instead headed to Triple-A to work out of the Memphis rotation. Kelly pitched for Memphis on Sunday, throwing 72 pitches in a 4 1/3-inning rehab start. He would have a normal four days of rest leading up to Friday's outing.
"Command looked good. He felt good," Matheny said of Kelly's outing on Sunday. "The hamstring doesn't even seem to be an issue for him right now. It's not something he even thinks about as he's running or pitching, which is first and foremost, the place we needed for him to get. Then after that it's, What does his stuff look like? He was real happy with how the ball was coming out of his hand."
If Kelly does come back on Friday, it will be in the same place where he went down nearly three months ago. It was during an April 16 start at Miller Park that Kelly strained his left hamstring trying to beat out a bunt.
The importance of the upcoming three-game series against the Brewers, as well as Kelly's performance on Sunday, both played into the decision to reconsider the original plan of having him make one more rehab start.
Gonzales optioned to Memphis; Lyons recalled
ST. LOUIS -- Marco Gonzales' first stint in the Majors came to an end on Monday, when the Cardinals optioned him to Triple-A to add depth to a bullpen in need of bolstering.
Gonzales, 22, was abruptly called up from Double-A on June 25 after the Cardinals placed Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia on the disabled list. He made three starts, most recently on Sunday, when he allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings despite surrendering seven hits and five walks.
"We needed him to pitch. He came out and did a real nice job," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think it was a great learning experience -- any time guys get here, it can be priceless. But [it was also good] for him to see how these hitters reacted to his stuff."
Gonzales -- a first-round selection in 2013 -- had only reached Double-A when the Cardinals added him to the roster, and so will be making his first stop in Triple-A upon arrival in Memphis.
He allowed 11 runs while walking 11 in 14 innings over his three starts, posting a 7.07 ERA. The Cardinals advised him to add pitches (curve and cutter) while continuing to improve his primary ones (fastball and changeup).
"We talked about his need for a couple other pitches and to fine-tune a couple extra things to keep guys off his main strike pitches," manager Mike Matheny said. "He saw firsthand that he has to do something different, and I think that's a great tool for him moving forward."
To fill Gonzales' spot on the roster, the Cardinals recalled left-hander Tyler Lyons from Triple-A. Lyons last pitched in the Majors on May 12 before a strained left shoulder sent him to the disabled list.
Lyons made two rehab starts -- one in Double-A and one in Triple-A -- before being optioned on June 19 to Triple-A, where he made three more starts. In five starts in the Minors since going on the DL, he has a 7.36 ERA, allowing 15 runs in 18 1/3 innings.
Although four of his six appearances for the Cardinals this season have been starts, his current role will be out of the bullpen after relievers pitched eight of 18 innings the last two games.
"We took a real strong shot at it Saturday and ended up using a lot of arms to take that one home," Matheny said. "It put us real short. We were limping yesterday with our pitching. Fortunately, they got us through it, and now Tyler can help reinforce that."
• Lefty Kevin Siegrist threw 25 pitches (a mixture of fastballs, changeups and sliders) during a Monday bullpen session, his second such session since the discomfort in his shoulder began to wane. Siegrist, who noted that the shoulder continues "to get better every time," plans to throw from the mound again on Wednesday at near 100 percent intensity. If all goes well, he will be cleared to head out on a rehab assignment.
• Yadier Molina learned on Sunday that he had been elected as an All-Star starter for the fourth time in his career. He'll find out in a week if his batterymate, Adam Wainwright, is the first National League pitcher he will get to catch. Said Molina, when asked about that possibility: "It would be great for me and for all of St. Louis. It would be a great time."
• Double-A outfielder James Ramsey remains on the DL with a strained right intercostal, but Mozeliak said that he still hopes to play in Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. With Gonzales called up, Ramsey is slated to be the Cardinals' lone representative.
• Garcia left Busch Stadium at about the time the Cardinals were starting batting practice on Monday so he could visit Dr. Robert Thompson. The two were to discuss Garcia's next step, which the Cardinals expect to be season-ending surgery.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.