Indians-Red Sox Preview
The Boston Red Sox feared the worst when Joe Kelly left a start after just two-thirds of an inning a month ago with what the team called a shoulder impingement.
The club wasn't exactly looking forward to its rotation losing another arm.
Kelly returns from the disabled list after a promising stint in the minors and starts for the Red Sox in Saturday's middle game versus the Cleveland Indians.
Kelly (1-0, 9.35 ERA) missed the final three weeks of 2015 with shoulder discomfort, but he showed no ill effects in spring training and earned a rotation spot out of camp.
That all changed April 19 when he left a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay after throwing only 23 pitches because of pain in his shoulder. Kelly could even be seen wincing on the mound after his last few throws, and at first glance the outlook didn't appear good.
"I felt a little off, but honestly didn't think much about it," he told MLB's website. "I thought I was going to be good to go and went out there and tried to step on the gas and nothing came out."
The right-hander has recovered quicker than expected even though he's had some durability issues over the last few seasons. Kelly has made just 45 starts since the beginning of the 2014 season, going 17-10 with a 4.74 ERA in that time.
Acquired from St. Louis at the 2014 deadline trade that sent John Lackey to the Cardinals, Boston (25-17) is certainly hoping Kelly's return can bolster a rotation that has a 4.74 ERA and sits among the bottom half of the American League.
Kelly looked good in his final outing with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, striking out 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings with his fastball returning to the mid-90s.
"Joe came out of last night in good shape," said manager John Farrell, who also expects Eduardo Ramirez to soon return from a knee injury and rejoin the rotation.
The first order of business in solidifying things is getting a look at Kelly, who is 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two career starts against the Indians (22-17). He gave up just two runs in 11 innings in those outings. His most recent appearance against them came when he tossed six innings of one-run ball in a 6-4 victory Aug. 19.
Opposing Kelly will be Trevor Bauer (3-1, 3.89), who is coming off his first loss since being inserted into the Indians rotation in late April.
Bauer had his second straight quality start with three runs allowed and eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings Sunday, but got no run support in a 5-1 loss to Minnesota.
The right-hander bounced back after a shaky second in which he allowed two runs with two outs. From there he retired 14 in a row until allowing a solo homer in the seventh.
"Everything was pretty good, actually," Bauer told MLB's official website. "I need to throw more first-pitch strikes, but I got through it OK. ... I thought I had a really good spring as a starter, and I've continued that this season."
Bauer departed his only start against the Red Sox after 1 2/3 innings and five runs allowed in Cleveland's 9-1 loss Aug. 18. After allowing two runs in an inning of relief during a 6-2 loss April 5, his career ERA against Boston is 23.63.
He faces a challenge against the Red Sox, who lead the majors with 242 runs and homered in a franchise-record 20th straight game in Friday's 4-2 loss. The streak-extending homer came off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr., who pushed his hitting streak to 25 games.