Joe Kelly isn’t even at Boston Red Sox spring training yet — for good reason — and the right-hander already is the subject of what could be the first meaningful development of camp.
Kelly, who welcomed a baby boy to the world this week (hence his absence from camp), figured to enter the 2016 season as Boston’s No. 5 starter behind David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, but Red Sox manager John Farrell hinted Thursday that there actually might be a competition for the final spot in the rotation.
Farrell was asked a question at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., about the final few spots in the Red Sox’s bullpen, which figure to be up for grabs this spring. The skipper responded as you’d might expect before (somewhat surprisingly) bringing the rotation into the competition discussion.
“There’s probably a couple of spots open (in the bullpen),” Farrell told reporters. “Are we completely solidified on the left side (left-handed relief)? Who’s going to be the guy who gives us multiple-inning capability, particularly early (in the season) when you’re going to go to that multi-inning guy more than you might midseason?
“And are we set with the five guys in our rotation?” he added. “Joe Kelly certainly has the lead on that fifth spot, but we can’t ever take for granted that injury, performance might cause us to make decisions.”
Kelly is coming off a rollercoaster season in which he went 10-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 25 starts. He struggled early in the year, prompting a demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, but the 27-year-old soon returned to the bigs and won eight of his final nine starts before being shut down for the season for precautionary reasons.
There was some speculation over the offseason that Boston might consider trading Kelly, whose natural talent hasn’t led to consistent results thus far. The Red Sox opted to keep him around, seemingly to fill the fifth and final spot in Boston’s rotation, but that plan clearly isn’t etched in stone.
Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Roenis Elias (acquired from the Seattle Mariners over the offseason) are three names to consider if the Red Sox hold an open competition for the final rotation spot.
Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly