Right-handed reliever Joe Kelly says that he wants the chance to step to the plate if the Boston Red Sox make it to the World Series.
Every member of the Boston Red Sox has their sights set on making it to the World Series. Playing on baseball’s biggest stage is what every young player grows up dreaming about. Joe Kelly has a bit of extra incentive. A trip to the World Series may give him his only chance this year to potentially grab a bat.
Appearing on the Jim Rome Show, Kelly revealed his deep desire to be given the opportunity to hit.
The Red Sox wrap up interleague play this weekend by hosting the New York Mets at Fenway Park. There will be no more visits to National League ballparks where pitchers are forced to hit unless Boston advances to the World Series.
If Kelly were to pitch in a World Series game, he hopes to convince manager Alex Cora to leave him in long enough for his spot in the batting order to come around.
"“I love hitting,” said Kelly. “I take a lot of pride in it. If we get a chance, I’m going to ask Cora, hey, I’ll keep going as long as you need me in the game, in the playoffs, and if we get to the World Series, I want a little at-bat right there.”"
Hey, we’ve seen Rick Porcello handle the bat pretty well. Why not Kelly?
The art of hitting isn’t completely foreign to Kelly, who was once a National League starter for the St. Louis Cardinals. His last plate appearance came in 2015 and he’s hitting only .172 for his career but does that make him any less likely to get a hit than Sandy Leon? Kelly has some extra-base pop with four career doubles. He’s a great athlete with sneaky speed and is a perfect 1-for-1 in stolen base attempts in his career. He has one postseason hit on his resume and he can do it again. Give this man a bat!
Ok, back to reality. There’s no chance that the Red Sox would let Kelly hit in a World Series game. He’s a relief pitcher now so if he makes it into a game at all it would be for only one inning. If his spot in the order were to come up in the next frame, Cora should absolutely pinch-hit for Kelly unless they desperately needed him to toss more than one inning, which he hasn’t done since mid-June. Considering Kelly’s struggles on the mound of late, it’s doubtful he would be trusted to toss multiple innings, let alone hit for himself.
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Is there any realistic scenario in which Kelly could get his wish? Maybe in a blowout, if the Red Sox have a double-digit lead late in Game 4 of a series in which they are on the verge of sweeping their opponent. The stakes are never higher than they are in a World Series game. How much of a lead is safe enough that you can afford to essentially waste an at-bat letting a relief pitcher hit?
There is one other scenario where it may actually make sense to send Kelly to the plate. If the batter ahead of his spot gets on with nobody out, Cora could ask Kelly to bunt the runner into scoring position or over to third base rather than waste a bench player on a sacrifice. Kelly does have eight career sacrifice hits so perhaps he can be trusted as much as anyone off the bench to drop down a bunt.
That’s really not Cora’s style though. The Red Sox are 28th in the majors with only six sac bunts this season. Perhaps Cora is willing to pull out all the stops in the World Series to do whatever it takes to squeeze out a run. However, the odds of that scenario presenting itself while Kelly is in the game are astronomical.
While it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Kelly could get the chance to hit in a World Series game, it’s probably more likely that Jim Buchanan will be the next NESN sideline reporter.