The Boston Red Sox lost another member of their rotation when Joe Kelly went down with a shoulder injury, but how long will they be without him?
Joe Kelly just didn’t look right on the mound last night. Those that subjected themselves to most of his starts from the first half of last season may be saying that Kelly often hasn’t looked right, but this was different.
The right-hander struggled to get loose before the game, but pushed himself to battle through the discomfort he kept hidden from his team. Yet the grimace on his face as he uncorked his fastball gave him away. It was starting to look like Kelly would be in for a long night after he walked two of the first three batters he faced, but his outing would end up being cut shorter than anyone imagined.
Despite his pleas with manager John Farrell to remain in the game, Kelly was lifted with two outs in the first inning, leaving the rest of the game in the hands of Boston’s bullpen. As brilliantly as the Red Sox relievers pitched, keeping the game scoreless until it was eventually lost in the 10th inning, the game took its toll an an already overworked bullpen.
A weary bullpen is far from their greatest concern though, as attention now turns to how to replace Kelly in the rotation now that he’s heading for the disabled list. Kelly will undergo further testing today to determine the severity of the injury, but until then we’re left only to guess how long he’ll be sidelined.
"“It’s really, really frustrating,” Kelly told reporters following Tuesday night’s loss. “After I came out, I sat on my chair and… it was something going through my head, pondering about what the next step is.”"
The initial diagnosis was been termed as a right shoulder impingement. Third baseman Travis Shaw suffered a similar injury that forced him to miss winter ball, so using his recovery as a general guideline we can surmise that Kelly could miss about 4-6 weeks. Shaw classified his own experience with the injury as a big deal, so perhaps Kelly is experiencing the ailment to a lesser extent. Or it could be worse.
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The time table for Kelly will depend on further testing, but we know he will be sidelined for at least two weeks, likely more. The Red Sox rotation was about to get crowded once Eduardo Rodriguez returned from his own stint on the DL, so Kelly going down makes that solution easier. The problem is that E-Rod is still about two weeks away from being ready to return to the rotation, so the Red Sox need to find someone else to fill in for a few spot starts.
Henry Owens would seem to be the top candidate to be called upon. He gained some valuable experience in the big leagues last season and is off to a promising start in Pawtucket, posting a 1.00 ERA and striking out 23 batters through 18 innings that cover three starts. Unfortunately he’s also walked 10, showing he’s yet to put his control issues behind him. He needs more minor league seasoning, but could be used as a short-term fill in until E-Rod is ready. Owens last started on Monday, so he would be ready to take Kelly’s next turn in the rotation.
The injury to Kelly also means that Steven Wright will remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future, even after Rodriguez returns. That’s good news for the Red Sox, considering he’s been their best pitcher so far. He may be 0-2, but he leads Red Sox starters with a 2.13 ERA through a pair of starts against a powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup. He’s earned the chance to get more time in the rotation, especially since he’s out of options to return to Pawtucket. It’s either keep him in the rotation or use him as the long reliever in the bullpen, because Wright has simply been too valuable in the early going to let go of him.
The Red Sox rotation should settle in once Rodriguez returns, while Kelly hopefully won’t be too far behind. Dipping into the farm system for spot starts isn’t ideal this early in the season, but at least the organization has some quality arms that they could bring up if necessary.
Hopefully Kelly’s injury isn’t a long-term concern. If he remains sidelined deep into the summer, if the rest of the rotation continues to struggle or if the injury imp bites again, the outcries to trade for another reliable starting pitcher will only grow louder.