So much ink has been spilled about the make up of this year’s Red Sox pitching this week. David Price is ready. But no-one else is. Apart from Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith is broken. Oh, and they can’t develop prospects.
There’s truth in all of this of course. Behind Price the Sox rotation is a bunch of maybes and question marks.
Will Pretty Ricky Porcello -re-find the sinker that led Ben Cherington to pony up $82million?
Will Eduardo Rodriguez DL stint be a short one, or are his growing pains a big deal?
Will Steven Wright’s knuckle ball get the flaming it should in AL East parks?
Which Clay Buchholz do we get? Early 2015 vintage ‘Weird Haircut Clay’, or late 2015 ‘Fucking Injured Clay’?
And what of Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa? Finally lost to the vagaries of bullpen flame outs?
There are no Wade Mileys to turn to for 200 innings of solid 4 run ball and all the depth showed all of its Triple A credentials in Spring Training.
Let us then throw into this mix a flaming hot take.
Joe Kelly is this year’s Jake Arrieta – the nearly man with the great stuff set to take that big leap into Whiffsville and provide that support Price so sorely needs atop the order.
Half of you have stopped reading here, throwing your laptops, kindles and iPads through the window and taken up self flagellation. But stop a minute…
Kelly’s started listening. His late season figures show it. After a chastening dip to Pawtucket post All-Star Break, hanging with Sandy Leon, bringing back an 8-1 record and a 3.00 ERA to back up his unquestionable peripherals. It seems working with Brian Bannister and Carl Willis has finally brought some sense to the former Cardinal’s game.
Until his last appearance vs the Twins, Kelly’s Spring Training was stellar. He led the Sox in strikeouts and finishing with a 2.63 ERA.
Kelly himself has spoken of how it’s all come together, telling ESPN‘s Scott Lauber that his new found confidence in his arsenal is all down to Jacob DeGrom’s curve ball. Recalling an inter league at bat he stated:
“I think I swung 100 feet in front of it,” Kelly recalled. “I just noticed that. That’s a devastating pitch. Righties normally get balls that go away from them, curveballs and sliders. So the changeup is a good pitch when it’s the right time and the right hitter.”
He also spoke highly of how his time in Pawtucket gave him opportunities to work on his pitch mix away from the glare of the big league cameras, and seems ready to take a step forward and translate that to the bigs.
And why wouldn’t he? With elite defensive support behind in the mould of Bradley, Betts, Pedroia and Bogaerts one of the big issues of last year’s Sox is erased. He’s also likely to get the necessary run support with Betts and Bogaerts in the MVP missives and Hanley and Big Papi mashing.
When Ben Cherington sent John Lackey to St Louis in return for Kelly and Allen Craig at the 2014 deadline, Boston raved. It’s done all but since. One expects even Cherington would allow himself a wry inside smile if Kelly finally puts it together in the manner which the Sox have always hoped. Another piece he bestowed on Dave Dombrowski…
Never one to talk himself down, Kelly somewhat foolishly talked up his prowess at last year’s Sox Winter Weekend – 2015 was to be the year of Joe Kelly, AL Cy Young Winner. That never came to pass, of course.
So here’s to settling in 2016.
Joe Kelly – ALCS Game 2 Pitcher.