Joe Kelly Reluctant To Become Reliever Despite Red Sox’s Bullpen Woes

Joe Kelly’s done it before. He’s not in any rush to do it again.

The Boston Red Sox’s bullpen is in a world of trouble, especially now that closer Koji Uehara will miss the rest of the season with a fractured wrist. But the club hasn’t approached Kelly about converting back into a reliever. And that’s OK with the right-hander.

“I would prefer to start,” Kelly said this week in Miami, according to

Kelly hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2013 — he still was with the St. Louis Cardinals — but with the 27-year-old struggling as a starter and the Red Sox in need of relief reinforcements, a transition seems logical. Kelly, after all, served as a closer in college.

The issue? Kelly’s closing career wasn’t without hiccups from a physical standpoint.

“I don’t know if it was because I just started pitching, but closing bothered my arm a lot,” Kelly said, according to “When I was in college, I was shut down every year for a few weeks for arm problems, and I don’t know if it was because I was just new to pitching or the amount of repetition I got outings-wise. So I don’t know what the correlation was. I really enjoyed it, but I ran into a few arm problems.

“I would be shut down for two-week or three-week increments. I didn’t have a full healthy year except for maybe my first year.”

Kelly, who briefly was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this season, sports a 4-6 record and a 5.96 ERA in 18 starts. Perhaps a role change would lead to better results. Then again, Kelly would need to overcome mental hurdles that come with having experienced physical issues as a reliever in the past.

“Yeah, as soon as I started to feel something, I would start to think about it,” Kelly said. “I went through a lot of tendinitis and inflammation and a lot of aches always.”

The Red Sox could use an effective Kelly. They also need a healthy Kelly, which perhaps explains the organization’s reluctance to make a switch that seems to make so much sense on the surface.

Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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