Red Sox Good News: Joe Kelly and Christian Vazquez


On Monday, reports came out about starting pitcher Joe Kelly injuring his arm in his recent start. The details can be found in BSI’s article by Michele Pettis. The Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation were dreading any talk of injuries to any of their starting pitchers, this spring. Now, Christian Vazquez also looks to be injured.

However, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe tweeted yesterday that both Kelly and Vazquez should be fine, despite the worrying pain:

The tightness in Kelly’s right bicep seems to have gotten better, according to Abraham and the Red Sox staff, or else the team would not let him play catch and test it out. No MRI must also be great news to Kelly, who is trying to recover from a dismal 2014 season.

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The 6’1″ native of California is only 26 years old, and yet his last days for the St. Louis Cardinals and his first days as a Boston Red Sox pitcher saw some ailing issues. Kelly’s combined 4.20 ERA ballooned after a 2.69 ERA in 2013, where his 10-5 record showed why experts considered him the future of the Cardinals’ pitching staff. In 2014, Kelly’s 17 starts amassed only a 6-4 record, a time that was plagued by documented injuries.

If you look at Kelly’s numbers, there is not much else negatively noticeable about his performance. According to, his fastball is the fastest that it has ever been, tapping out at 95 mph, and opposing teams had a lower batting average against him (.240) than the year before (257).

The difference comes with Kelly’s ability to control his pitches with runners in scoring position. You could tell by watching him that he could not locate his fastball where he wanted it. Regardless of how fast his fastball moved, the hitters would not swing at it if it came near the border of the strikezone. Any time that Kelly went for borderline pitches, the strategy seemed to be to take the pitch, which was evident in that hitters only swung 23% of the time outside of the zone, a significant five-percent drop from last season.

In 28 fewer innings, Kelly had almost the same amount of walks and gave up 8 more runs than in the previous season. At this point, another injury could devastate the young man’s psyche, especially when this season counts for so much of his future career. Kelly is eligible for arbitration in 2016, with free agency in 2019. Since he has only been paid a sum of just over a million dollars for his entire three-year career, Kelly’s future could be in serious jeopardy if this season does not pan out.

Mar 9, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) during a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As far as Vazquez goes, it was just wear-and-tear of spring training. The Boston Herald‘s Jason Mastrodonato reported, on lucky St. Patrick’s Day, that Vazquez picked up an injury that should not be serious: “Manager John Farrell revealed [yesterday morning] that starting catcher Christian Vazquez felt soreness in his right throwing elbow last Friday night after he threw out Yankees infielder Tylder Wade, who was trying to steal second base.”

While Mastrodonato also reported Farrell saying that they will just rest Vazquez, as he will be fine, catching prospect Blake Swihart will fill in for the defensive duties while Vazquez make take some swings in the next few spring training games. “Swihart, 22, is still developing and the Red Sox would prefer to start him in Triple-A Pawtucket rather than rush him to the majors. Should Vazquez have to miss an extended period of time, the obvious move would be to use Hanigan as the everyday catcher and use 12-year major league veteran Humberto Quintero as the back-up.”

Vazquez should have nothing to worry about in terms of his future as the Red Sox starting catcher. The brass love his defensive skills, even more than Swihart’s present abilities, and should not be a problem at the plate. Even with a .240 batting average, the Puerto Rican’s .308 on-base percentage last season should be more than enough near the bottom of the lineup for the big bats to bring him home.

With both Kelly and Vazquez receiving good news about their structural health, the players, executives, and Red Sox Nation should breathe a little easier today. That is, until Kelly makes his next start.

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