Stellar Kelly gives bullpen much-needed rest in win

Stellar Kelly gives bullpen much-needed rest in win

NEW YORK -- Joe Kelly hung around for the first 10 innings of Friday night's Red Sox-Yankees game, which is about five innings longer than he usually stays when he is starting a day game the following day.

Kelly got back to his hotel, drifted off to sleep around the 15th inning, and when he woke up on Saturday morning, the MLB.com At Bat app on his phone contained a pleasant surprise for him.

"Right when I woke up, the first thing I did was pull up my MLB app," said Kelly. "And I saw that we won in 19 innings and I was like, 'Holy crud.'"

Well rested and fired up to come off the disabled list, Kelly gave the Red Sox exactly what they needed while leading his team to an 8-4 victory in Saturday's matinee at Yankee Stadium.

Though there were some brief hiccups in the second inning, Kelly turned in a performance that was mostly masterful.

Over seven innings, the righty gave up one hit and one run while walking two and striking out a career-high eight batters. Not only that, but Kelly finished his day by retiring the final 17 batters he faced.

"I'm just happy I came out and made it through the game healthy," Kelly said. "That's not what I expected. I went out there and just tried to attack the zone. It was a long game last night. ... I knew that we were kind of thin in the bullpen, so I just tried to make quick outs."

While making quick work of the Yankees, Kelly showed he was long over the right biceps issue that slowed him during Spring Training and forced him to spend the first four games of the season on the disabled list.

It was important for Kelly not to miss any regular-season starts, and he emphatically told the Red Sox after Wednesday's bullpen session that he didn't need to throw another Minor League rehab start.

"I was happy that I was able to get this start today instead of going to pitch in [Class A] Greenville," Kelly said. "I was still trying to build up my pitch count and innings. Hopefully from here on out I can try to get to that 100-pitch mark."

Considering the way Kelly labored early in the second inning, giving up a hit and two walks over the first four batters, nobody could have ever predicted he was about to retire 17 in a row as part of his 93-pitch day.

"I was going to go out there until they told me I couldn't," said Kelly. "If it was in the fifth inning, I was going to try to say, 'Well, these guys need a little bit more break and my arm is feeling fine,' no matter where I was at in the game. Luckily enough I made it to the seventh inning and gave myself and the team a chance to win that ballgame."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.