Kelly became somewhat of an afterthought following several failed attempts to stick in the rotation, but he has been reborn as a lights out reliever in his latest stint in the minor leagues.
Granted it’s been a minuscule sample size, half of which took place in Low-A Lowell, but the results have been promising nonetheless. 8 innings over 6 appearances, allowing 2 earned runs on 7 hits, while piling up 13 strikeouts across two minor league levels.
Since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, Kelly has been dominant, tossing 4 shutout innings of relief while allowing only 4 base runners and striking out 8.
Kelly has always been praised for having great “stuff” on the mound, much of which stems from a blazing fastball that can reach the upper 90’s. Unfortunately, his limited repertoire made navigating lineups multiple times difficult, preventing him from finding consistent success as a starter.
A move to the bullpen has seemed inevitable for a while, which is a fate the Red Sox finally seem cognizant of. When used for only an inning or two, his unreliable secondary pitches become less problematic. He can rely heavily on his fastball, which he can dial up to the maximum level without the concern of pacing himself.
If the Red Sox look for a power pitcher as the temporary option to fill in as the closer, they may not have a better in-house option than Kelly.