The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster continues with a look at pitcher Joe Kelly.
The Red Sox received Joe Kelly (along with Allen Craig) in 2014 after they traded John Lackey to the Cardinals. Even though expectations were low for Kelly entering the 2015 season, he mentioned his plans on winning the Cy Young back in February.
The RHP had the worst season of his career, posting a career-high 4.82 ERA. However, the sole highlight of his season came in August, when he had a stretch of 8-0 posting a 2.59 ERA. This was not the first time the pitcher had accomplished a record like that, since in 2013 he won eight consecutive decisions in ten starts. This was too good to be true, so Kelly came back to Earth and was shut down for the last three weeks of regular season with an elbow injury.
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His 10-6 record might trick you into thinking that he had a decent year, but he didn’t. Before that 8-0 stretch, Kelly had a 6-2 record with a 5.94 ERA. He even found himself demoted to Pawtucket. Most Red Sox fans and writers began to wonder if the pitcher would be a bitter fit in the bullpen since rookies Brian Johnson and Henry Owens looked like a decent upgrade in the rotation.
Kelly works with a fastball that can reach 100 mph and he relied on it early in the season. Opposing batters took notice and it was not uncommon to see him give up two or three home runs per game. When he was in Pawtucket he worked in his two-seamer and sinker. His sinker was already one of the fastest of the League moving around 94 mph. His breaking ball also improved. Even though he had a decent repertoire, he only began to take advantage of it until he came back to the Majors.
Kelly began to trust more his secondary pitches in August and the results were obvious. During the 8-0 stretch, he had a .55 HR/9, compared to his .96 HR/9 before being demoted. He improved in almost every category possible, but the most important thing is that he only allowed more than two runs once.
You can call it luck or whatever you want, but Kelly ended up being one game shy of tying Pedro Martinez‘s record of nine consecutive wins in his Cy Young season back in 1999. Whenever you compare anything to Pedro and that year, you’re talking about pure talent. It was even reported that a few days before Kelly’s streak began, he received advice from Pedro himself.
Kelly already has a solid command on his fastball, but it can only improve. David Price became the ace he is when he mastered his fastball and having him as a mentor will benefit most of the rotation, Kelly included.
Other teams were reportedly interested in Kelly, but the Red Sox resisted. The team has faith in him because expectations are not high, but the potential he has and the little moments of success he showed in 2015 are strong enough to believe that he can be more than just a question mark at the end of the rotation. 2016 should be a better year for him, since it seems that 2015 worked as a learning season for him.