Kelly fighting to find consistency on mound

Allows five runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings

Kelly fighting to find consistency on mound

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox acquired Joe Kelly just prior to last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the move marked a new chapter for the hard-throwing righty, who flashed high potential in parts of three seasons with the Cardinals but had not shown it across a full season.

Since then, Kelly's time in a Boston uniform has been dominated by his own inconsistency and the team's flustered attempts to harness his exceptional athleticism. That trend continued on Monday night during a 10-8 loss to the White Sox at Fenway Park.

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The White Sox wasted little time jumping on Kelly, as they collected four hits in their first four at-bats during a four-run first inning. Adam Eaton and Tyler Saladino led off the game by smacking back-to-back triples off his fastball, Jose Abreu took first after being hit by a pitch and J.B. Shuck reached on an error by Kelly.

"Just missing some spots there," catcher Ryan Hanigan said of Kelly's outing, in which Kelly allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. "We made some mistakes and they didn't miss them. Settled down there a little bit. Just a tough one for Joe. Keep working, keep trying to get him on track. They can swing it, they got some balls to hit and they didn't miss them."

Kelly settled down, retiring seven of the final nine batters he faced, and the Boston offense plated four runs to tie the game. But with Red Sox manager John Farrell looking to keep his team within striking distance, he made an early move to the bullpen, ending Kelly's night after 73 pitches.

"Rough outing. A lot of elevated pitches in the strike zone. There were strikes, but the command with the strike zone was lacking," Farrell said. "A lot of hard contact early. We come right back after a couple of innings and tie things up. We're going through the top of the order a third time, and it was time to make a move to the bullpen. Bottom line of this game tonight is that we couldn't put up enough zeros."

The outing raised Kelly's ERA to 5.94 on the season and marked the 10th time in 16 starts that he could not complete six innings. The 27-year-old's issues have also reflected the overarching issues with the Boston rotation, which had an American League-worst 4.75 ERA before Monday's loss.

Kelly's previous experience as a reliever has led some to suggest he could return to the bullpen soon. Farrell said he expects Kelly to make his next start, but he added that the team will still discuss Kelly's future.

"That's to be determined," Farrell said. "Right now, yes, unless something changes that I'm not aware of. I'm sure it'll be up for discussion."

For Kelly, who had high hopes for his first full season with the Sox, the extended struggles were not what he had envisioned.

"You don't really predict that, but it is what it is right now," he said. "Something that I just have to keep fighting. I'm not going to give up out there. Just going to keep pitching."

Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.