John Farrell: Joe Kelly Can Be ‘Dominant Starter’ For Boston Red Sox

BOSTON — Joe Kelly’s ceiling as a starter was too high for the Red Sox to pull the plug.

Red Sox manager John Farrell revealed before Sunday’s game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park that Kelly will remain in Boston’s rotation, with Steven Wright shifting to the bullpen. Kelly pitched well Saturday against the A’s, offering a reminder of what he’s capable of when all’s going right.

“Both have pitched probably well enough to either remain in the rotation or to earn a rotation spot,” Farrell said of the decision to keep Kelly in the rotation over Wright. “But when you set aside a couple of the bumps Joe Kelly has had of late, one in Minnesota, he’s got the ability to be a dominant starter.

“(Saturday) was a glimpse of that. There’s been other outings where he’s pitched to that capability and I feel like we’re going to stay the course with Joe in the rotation.”

Kelly has been inconsistent this season. He went nine starts between wins — eventually snapping the skid with a victory Saturday — and his ERA sits at a less-than-stellar 5.40. But the 26-year-old has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his last five outings. So while there was a seven-run implosion mixed in May 25 against the Twins, one could argue he’s trending upward.

“I think over the past three weeks or so he’s pitched to both sides of the plate a little more regularly,” Farrell said. “It’s pitch execution, as it would be for really any guy.”

Kelly’s repertoire is well-documented. He has electric stuff that’s highlighted by a high 90s fastball, though his success — or lack thereof — typically depends on his command. Kelly has shown several times this season that he’s often better off taking a little zip off his fastball and rearing back for additional velocity only when necessary.

“Usually means there’s more consistent command. Sometimes when a guy’s trying to reach back for added velocity, he’s going to sacrifice location within the strike zone, whether it’s Joe or really any other guy,” Farrell said. “I think what he’s shown us is greater consistency with that command. He’s wired to throw the baseball hard, even if it’s at 95 percent effort. And that’s the energy and effort level in his delivery that we’re making a great emphasis on to harness.”

Red Sox starters have pitched well of late. They own a 3.23 ERA over the club’s last 24 games dating back to May 13 — allowing two earned runs or fewer in 18 of 24 starts — and they own a 1.91 ERA in six June starts. The Sox never considered sticking with a six-man rotation, though, according to the skipper.

“No, because now we’ve got an added day with the off-day (Monday). Most everyone is going to pitch with an added day of rest,” Farrell said. “I don’t know if guys were pitching (better) because there was a sixth guy. I just think everyone took a step forward. And that includes the emergence of (Eduardo Rodriguez).”

The Red Sox will continue to monitor their starters with a watchful eye, knowing that Wright is capable of stepping in and Brian Johnson looks ready at Triple-A Pawtucket. But Kelly saved his job after nearly pitching his way out of the rotation.

It’s time to see if Kelly can take the next step following his manager’s vote of confidence.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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