BOSTON — Joe Kelly’s best path back to the majors might involve a role change.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday the team has discussed moving the struggling Kelly, who last month was demoted to Triple-A, to the bullpen. Farrell did clarify, however, that no move is imminent.
“I think at some point he is an option to come back in that role,” the skipper said as his team prepared to host the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park. “But to say that there’s a prescribed number of starts that we have to see some certain things work out, and then we made the decision from there (isn’t accurate). We haven’t said that there’s an ‘X’ number of starts before we would alter his path.
“But he’s got bullpen experience at the major league level. Yeah, there have been times where the workload (of the Red Sox’s bullpen) has been — we’ve had to monitor it very close with Alexi (Ogando), Junichi (Tazawa) and Koji (Uehara). So, yeah, that conversation, some of that has been had.”
Kelly split time between the rotation and the ‘pen during his first two major league seasons, posting a 3.25 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 30 relief appearances for the St. Louis Cardinals, and was a closer during his college days at UC-Riverside.
The right-hander has struggled mightily as a starter since his trade to the Red Sox last season (4.96 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in 24 starts), and allowed four earned runs in 13 innings over his first two starts with Pawtucket.
“(I’ve heard) that the secondary stuff has been sharp,” Farrell said of Kelly’s two minor league outings. “I know last time out it was 112 pitches in six innings of work, knowing that there was a lot of foul balls, there was four walks mixed in there. The velocity’s been consistent. He went down with two primary objectives, and that was to continue to hone a consistent fastball location and have the ability to lead a breaking ball and then finish off — not too unlike what was being worked on here.
“It’s been two starts, and (they’ve) been good starts. I wouldn’t say dominant.”
Despite strong seasons by Uehara and Tazawa, the Red Sox entered Wednesday ranked 24th in the majors in bullpen ERA.
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