Knuckleballer Wright to assume bullpen role; Masterson set for another rehab start
By Alec Shirkey
BOSTON -- On the heels of Joe Kelly's statement outing in Saturday's 4-2 win over the A's, the Red Sox have decided to keep the hard-throwing righty in their rotation. Knuckleballer Steven Wright, who has been a reliable fill-in for injured starter Justin Masterson this season, will return to the bullpen.
Kelly allowed one run over six innings on Saturday. Despite a 5.40 ERA this season, he has held opposing teams to two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts, with the lone exception coming when the Twins tagged him for seven runs in 1 2/3 innings on May 25.
"Both have pitched well, probably well enough to remain in the rotation or to earn a rotation spot," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "When you set aside a couple of the bumps Joe Kelly has had of late -- one in Minnesota -- he's got the ability to be a dominant starter. Yesterday was a glimpse of that. There's been other outings where he's pitched to that capability. We feel like we're going to stay the course with Joe in the rotation."
Kelly has averaged a career-high 97.03 mph on his fastball this year with a maximum recorded speed of 100.28 mph, according to Brooks Baseball. However, the high-potential fireballer has at times struggled to command his heater when throwing at higher velocities.
In recent starts, Kelly tended to throw his fastball around 94-95 mph in earlier counts before dialing up to higher speeds later in the at-bat. That trend, combined with an effective mix of his changeup and curveball, led to better performances.
"I'm trying to focus on not trying to do that from the get go in the beginning of the game," Kelly said on Saturday. "The more I try to reach back and get it, the more I miss my spot. I picked my times for it."
"It usually means there's more consistent command," Farrell said. "Sometimes when a guy is trying to reach back for added velocity, he's going to sacrifice location in the strike zone. I think what he's shown us is greater consistency with that command. He's wired to throw the baseball hard -- even if it's at 95-percent effort -- and that's the energy and effort level in his delivery that we're making a great emphasis on to harness."
The Red Sox made Wright available to pitch from the bullpen on Sunday. He allowed five runs in 10 2/3 relief innings earlier this year.
Rookie left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who won his first two Major League starts in dominant fashion, has also secured a place in the rotation. Farrell said the team did not consider continuing with a six-man rotation.
"No, because we've got an added day with the off-day [Monday]," Farrell said. "Most everyone is going to pitch with an added day of rest. I don't know that guys were pitching because it's a sixth guy, I think everybody took a step forward. And that includes the emergence of [Rodriguez.]"
• Farrell announced that Masterson will make another rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. He said the team wants to make sure the right-hander's shoulder tendinitis and command issues are completely behind him before he rejoins the Red Sox.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.