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 WEEI.com.
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 WEEI.com. “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