Kelly adjusting to 'pen, throwing triple-digit heat
Right-hander reaches 100 mph on 7 of 21 pitches in relief
By Quinn Roberts
BOSTON -- A day after Joe Kelly's first relief outing in a Red Sox uniform, the fireballer admitted he was a little amped up during his one inning in Monday's 4-2 loss to the Tigers.
While Kelly consistently hit triple digits on the radar gun, his fastball lacked location and he had trouble getting his secondary pitches over for strikes.
That was the case when Justin Upton smacked a 101-mph heater into right-center for a triple to lead off the seventh inning. He later scored on a single by James McCann.
"I wouldn't say I was overthrowing. I felt like I had more in there," Kelly said. "It is going to be a fine line coming out of the bullpen. Flirting with the velocity and then what the situation calls for in locating balls."
Kelly tossed 21 pitches, seven of which were over 100 mph. That is more than all Red Sox pitchers have combined to throw since 2012.
However, Kelly knows that it's going to take more than a triple-digit fastball to find success in his new role with the club. Going forward, the right-hander wants to mix in more sliders and curveballs.
"The same thing applies in this role as it did when he was starting. Joe's secondary pitches will always be a part of his plan for success," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He can't just rely on velocity because as we've seen, his swing-and-miss rate is low despite upper 90s to 100 mph. It's all apart of Joe understanding who he is as a pitcher. The use of his secondary pitches are key."
The last time Kelly came out of the bullpen was in 2013 with the Cardinals.
As the right-hander adjusts to the new demands of being a reliever, Farrell said he feels comfortable using Kelly in back-to-back games.
"As a starter, you have four or five days to prepare for a team and know exactly what you are trying to do against hitters," Kelly said. "Coming out of the bullpen, you could know how to pitch against certain hitters and then the game gets going and you are not going to get those guys and get a different part of the lineup or you come into the game a lot quicker than you thought you would.
"It is just going to be a little bit of a learning curve. It shouldn't take too long. I felt pretty comfortable yesterday even though I gave up that one run."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.