Joe Kelly likely kept his spot in the Red Sox' rotation with his one-run performance Saturday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

How Joe Kelly likely kept his spot in the Red Sox' starting rotation

Ryan Hannable
June 06, 2015 - 4:40 pm

Although he may not have shown it, Saturday was a particularly important start for Joe Kelly, as he was pitching to keep his spot in the Red Sox' rotation. The Red Sox will go back to a five-man rotation this week and the final spot likely will come down to Kelly or Steven Wright, and with Kelly's performance in the Red Sox' 4-2 win Saturday over the A's, it would seem Kelly has earned the right to stay. This isn't to say Wright hasn't pitched well, as he is 1-2 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts and has gone at least five innings and allowed three earned runs or less in all four -- it comes down to the greatest potential and investment. The Red Sox traded for Kelly last year at the trade deadline and it wouldn't make sense to give up on him after just 21 starts in a Red Sox uniform, as well as him having the best "stuff" in the rotation. Judging by what manager John Farrell said afterwards, it's likely Kelly will continue on in the rotation. "€œWhether it'€™s the last couple of starts, or even going back to when he first arrived here last year, Joe'€™s got an ability to rise to an occasion inside of a game," manager John Farrell said. "Whether it'€™s the ability to reach back and get a little velocity, whether it'€™s making a key pitch as he'€™s done the last two starts out in particular with men in scoring position. He'€™s got a way about him to maybe keep a moment under control and still execute. He'€™s shown us that repeatedly." Kelly went six innings, allowing one run on four hits, while walking two and striking out six. It snapped a career-long nine start winless streak, his first win since April 11 in New York. Asked if he felt any pressure entering the game for possibly pitching for his spot in the rotation, he responded with one word: "Zero." Overall, his ERA is 5.40 and his record is 2-4, but he has pitched better than that would indicate as the Red Sox have scored three runs or fewer in six of his 11 starts and in six of his 11 starts he's allowed two earned runs or less. He's allowed two earned runs or less in four of his last five starts, so he's currently on a roll. As what what the difference has been from when he struggled in late April and early May, Kelly pointed to his fastball command. "Putting the ball where I want to most of the time -- obviously every time is impossible," Kelly said. "It definitely starts there and is something I've been trying to work on in my bullpens and playing catch. Just have to [stay through] that process." According to, of his 100 pitches Saturday, Kelly threw just 25 off-speed pitches -- 14 changeups and nine curveballs. It's clear he's working on his changeup, as after throwing it just twice two starts ago, he threw it 19 times in his last outing against the Rangers. In six of his 11 starts, he's thrown the pitch five times or less, but now 35 times in two starts. "I threw some good changeups today and got some early outs from those and some swing and misses," Kelly said. "That was probably a really good help as a secondary pitch today. I threw that last start and got the feel for it again and is something I want to keep using." Even after the strong performance, Kelly didn't seem too concerned about where he would be pitching next, but going off how he performed Saturday, he will be starting next weekend at Fenway Park. "I'm just going to keep pitching, man. That's it," Kelly said.