The Red Sox will apparently go to spring training without a “certified stopper”. Max Scherzer and James Shields would have been hailed as no.1 starters, but Scherzer has gone to the Nats and Shields remains unsigned.
It appears, therefore, that the job is up for grabs-perhaps it will go to the hurler who performs the best in Fort Myers. Joe Kelly, obtained from the Cardinals last summer in the John Lackey trade, is seldom mentioned in this role. But it should be considered a possibility.
Kelly, a 26-year-old whose mother is Mexican-American, was born in Anaheim and attended high school in Corona, California. Joe first attracted notice at Cal-Riverside after having been converted from the outfield. As a freshman, he was Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year in 07. Used basically as a closer, he set a Highlander record with 26 career saves and achieved All-America status.
Signing with St Louis in 09, he became a starter at Single-A Quad Cities in 2010. His stats were not particularly impressive, but got better the next year in Double-A Springfield in the Texas League. His 2011 numbers show an 11-6 mark, 3.68 ERA, 59 walks and 113 K’s. After only 12 starts at AAA Memphis in 2012, he was called up to the parent club in June.
Kelly joined the Cards’ starting rotation late that season, posting a 5-7 record and 3.53 ERA with a fine strikeout-to-walk ratio. After being relegated back to the bullpen early in ’13, he exploded into a late-season stopper role, going 5-0 and 2.08 in August to help his team to the division crown. His numbers totaled an excellent 10-5 and 2,69 in 37 total appearences. Joe would face his future teammates in game 3 of the World Series, receiving a no-decision in a Cardinal victory.
The righty entered 2014 near the top of the St Louis rotation, but spent most of the first half of the year on the DL. His 7 starts were nowhere as impressive as the late season run had been, especially in the walk-strikeout ratio.. When the team got a chance to obtain Lackey from the Sox, he was swapped to Boston along with Allen Craig. Like most of the Bosox starters last year, he was up and down- 4-2 with a rather high ERA. He walked nearly as many as he fanned.
There seemed to be an impression among Sox writers and fans that the team expected more, considering the loss of no.2 man Lackey. He is young, however, and seems capable of improvement. He has a lively fastball along with a very hard sinker that moves horizontally. Kelly comes from a very successful organization and already has 11 games of postseason experience. Could he be the “sleeper” of 2014? We’ll have to see.