Red Sox: Joe Kelly leaves minor league start with injury


Joe Kelly left his start with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday with an injury, setting back any potential return to the Boston Red Sox.

Joe Kelly‘s path back to the big leagues has hit a snag. The right-hander limped off the mound with two outs in the fifth inning with an apparent groin injury, bringing an early end to his first minor league start since the Boston Red Sox demoted him to Triple-A Pawtucket last week.

Kelly was tagged with the loss, surrendering 3 runs on 6 hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings. The final run he allowed came on a sacrifice fly to right field, which is when Kelly appeared to injure himself as he made his way into foul territory to back up the play at the plate. That would be the last batter Kelly would face that evening before being escorted off the field by the training staff.

PawSox manager Kevin Boles told the Providence Journal’s Bill Koch after the game that Kelly felt some discomfort prior to the last pitch he threw, but waived off his catcher, proclaiming himself ready to continue. Apparently he wasn’t, as that discomfort foreshadowed the injury that would pull him from the game.

"“He felt it a little bit the pitch before,” revealed Boles. “(PawSox catcher Dan) Butler went out and checked on him a little bit. He said, ‘I’m fine. I’m ok.’ Then he felt it tug on him a little bit.”"

It’s unclear how much time Kelly may miss, but we should know more after he is reevaluated later today. Regardless of the diagnosis, this would seem to be a significant setback to Kelly’s chances of rejoining the Red Sox rotation anytime soon.

More from Red Sox News

Due to a pair of days off on the schedule this week, Boston doesn’t need to use a fifth starter until June 18.  Last week I discussed the competition between the four internal options vying for that role, with Kelly being among them. If he misses at least one start with the injury then it leaves him little time to earn his spot in the rotation, while it’s uncertain if he’ll even make it back to the mound in the next 10 days before the Red Sox need to make the decision.

Kelly was arguably the least likely of the four to be given another shot in the rotation anyway, after he compiled a brutal 8.46 ERA over 6 starts for the Red Sox this season. There is also plenty of evidence to support the notion that Kelly is better off in the bullpen.

Henry Owens is faring better than Kelly after allowing only 1 run over 5 2/3 innings in his last start, but he also waked 3 batters. Owens has walked at least 3 in all but one of his starts for Pawtucket this season. While he owns a respectable 3.60 ERA through 9 starts at Triple-A, those bouts are wildness won’t be tolerated at the big league level.

More from BoSox Injection

Roenis Elias boosted his appeal with a complete game effort in his last outing, allowing only 1 run on 6 hits, while striking out 8. Elias has now allowed 2 runs or less in three of his last four starts. His overall numbers may not be all that impressive, but he’s making enough progress to garner consideration if his competition falters.

Clay Buchholz remains the favorite to reclaim his spot in the rotation, if only because he has the best track record of the bunch. Buchholz has allowed 3 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings over three relief appearances since being banished to the bullpen last month. As frustrated as Red Sox Nation has become with the enigmatic Buchholz, one of the pitchers competing for that spot would really need to shine over the next 10 days in order to surpass him.

Ideally whoever wins the fifth spot in the rotation will merely be a placeholder until the Red Sox front office can swing a deal to bring in a reliable No. 2 starter. The team recently placed reliever Carson Smith on the 60-day disabled list without making a corresponding move. While this may only be a formality given Smith is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, it should be noted that the move opens a spot on the 40-man roster.

Next: Left Field is Young's spot to lose

A lot can still happen over the next 10 days before the Red Sox need to decide on a fifth starter, so it’s a bit early to rule anyone out. However, this injury setback certainly isn’t helping Kelly’s already slim chances.