Joe Kelly isn’t about to panic.
Kelly was far from effective Thursday as the Boston Red Sox dropped their Grapefruit League opener 9-8 to the Minnesota Twins. It was a disappointing beginning to Kelly’s slate of spring training starts, but the lackluster effort wasn’t anything the right-hander hasn’t been through before.
“My springs aren’t usually good,” Kelly told reporters in Fort Myers. “I think my springs are usually terrible. I don’t think I’ve ever had a good spring.”
Kelly is right. He posted a 4.91 ERA in six appearances (three starts) spanning 14 2/3 innings while with the St. Louis Cardinals in spring 2013. He followed it up with an even worse 6.28 ERA in four starts spanning 14 1/3 innings in spring 2014.
So, Kelly isn’t sweating Thursday’s start, in which he allowed four earned runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings. Instead, he’s looking at the positive aspects of his outing, even if they were few and far between.
“My body feels good and my arm feels good,” Kelly said. “That’s the No. 1 key for me. But my stuff wasn’t as crisp as it usually is. I was throwing some strikes and had three guys 0-and-2 and I just didn’t have the stuff to finish them off.”
Kelly’s stuff never really has been an issue. He can dial it up to the mid 90s, and he features a power sinker that can generate plenty of ground balls when he’s on his game. In that sense, Thursday’s start was somewhat surprising, though not completely alarming given how early it is in camp.
“I threw an 88 mph fastball up there, and I don’t think I’ve done that since I was 13,” Kelly said.
“With location, I was leaving a lot of stuff out over the plate,” Kelly added. “and especially in spring training, these guys are looking to get their timing down and whack fastballs, and I just couldn’t spot it where I wanted.”
Spring training is all about knocking off the rust. One shouldn’t expect Kelly to be the same pitcher next month that he was Thursday night at Hammond Stadium. In fact, he already is turning the page.
“I’m hard on myself as it is,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to beat myself up over it. But I’m definitely going to watch some video and work on my mechanics and ultimately get my arm to where I need it to be.”
Thumbnail photo via Michael Dwyer/The Associated Press