Red Sox Notes: Joe Kelly Turns Heat Way Up In First Relief Appearance

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BOSTON — A time traveler transported from the beginning of the season to Monday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers would have been quite confused by the Red Sox’s choice of pitchers.

After getting six strong innings from Drew Pomeranz, acquired just 10 days ago from the San Diego Padres, manager John Farrell turned to Joe Kelly and Clay Buchholz, two pitchers who began the 2016 campaign in Boston’s starting rotation.

For Kelly, Monday night marked his first relief appearance in a Red Sox uniform and first time coming out of the bullpen since 2013. The right-hander also hadn’t pitched at the major league level since June 1, which was evident when he entered in the seventh inning and began pumping serious heat.

Just how serious? Fenway Park’s radar gun unofficially clocked 11 of Kelly’s 21 pitches at 100 mph or faster.

Unfortunately, Kelly’s velocity didn’t translate into success — he allowed a leadoff triple to Tigers outfielder Justin Upton, who later scored on a James McCann RBI single that gave Detroit extra cushion in its eventual 4-2 win.

“He was powerful. A lot of power, a lot of velocity,” Farrell said of Kelly. “Some inconsistent command getting behind in the count — 2-1 (pitch) to Upton, fastball out over the plate that he?s able to drive the other way. Still, the first look, I thought he threw enough strikes. He threw a breaking ball for strikes on occasion.”

Kelly was visibly upset after recording the final out of the frame, an indicator that he knows he doesn’t have much room for error on Boston’s crowded pitching staff. That begs the question of whether the 28-year-old’s high velocity was the result of overthrowing, but Farrell didn’t think so.

“I?m sure there was some adrenaline,” Farrell said. “You would hope that every guy takes the mound there is adrenaline there. I can?t say that it took him out of his game. … I don?t think he was over-throwing to the point he was completely losing the strike zone.”

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Let’s hit a few other notes from Red Sox-Tigers:

— Mookie Betts’ first game back from a knee injury that sidelined him for two games didn’t go too well, as the Red Sox outfielder went 0-for-5 and left six men on base. Farrell said before the game that Betts was fully good to go, but his injury could linger for a bit.

“I don’t fully expect this to vanish,” Farrell said. “There was a little buildup of some swelling. Once that’s been removed or diminished, that’s where he’s feeling the freedom in his knee right now.”

— Betts wasn’t the only Red Sox player who couldn’t come through in the clutch, as Boston’s batters left a total of 11 men on base and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth inning and managed just one run.

— An old friend delivered Detroit’s clutch hit in shortstop Jose Iglesias, who spent two-plus seasons in Boston from 2011 to 2013. The Tigers also employ two other ex-Red Sox — Victor Martinez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia — and “Salty” earned a nice video tribute in between innings.

— Buchholz didn’t do himself any favors in his own relief appearance, allowing one run in the eighth to raise his ERA on the season to 6.06.

Farrell himself recently admitted the right-hander is in a bit of a tough spot, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski offered words of encouragement before Monday’s game when asked about the 31-year-old veteran.

“He’s real good protection for us,” Dombrowski said. “I thought he threw the ball the other day as well as I’ve seen him throw it all year.

“I know if you just looked at the stats you’d say, ‘Oh, he didn’t do very well.’ We unfortunately missed a couple balls that were catchable that particular day. I thought his stuff was outstanding. So, he’s got a place now.”

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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