Red Sox better hope Joe Kelly has the last laugh

Bill Foley (@Foles74)
Contributing Writer

Admit it, you laughed a little bit when Joe Kelly brought up his own name in the race for the 2015 American League Cy Young Award in January.
(AP Photo)

Kelly, after all, was a guy we figured was, at best, Boston’s No. 5 starting pitcher this season. Kelly, who was on his way out of the Cardinals’ rotation when he was traded to the Red Sox, was the guy we figured would be the odd man when Ben Cherington finally pulled the trigger on the Cole Hamels trade.

Yet, just before spring training and the Super Bowl, Kelly strolled into the WEEI broadcast setup during the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwood and made a pretty big proclamation.

"I want your listeners to know I’m going to win the Cy Young this year,” Kelly told Mut and Bradford. “Just letting everyone know so when I win it you heard it here first."

Nearly three months later, Red Sox fans are really hoping that Kelly wasn’t joking because the Hamels-less Red Sox rotation isn’t giving anybody — other than the rest of the AL East — much reason for optimism.

Kelly, who gets the start Friday night against the Orioles, looked great last time out, striking out eight Yankees in seven one-hit innings in the Bronx. He hit 97 miles per hour.

If he follows the path of Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley, however, the Red Sox will be down at least five runs by the third inning.

After promising starts the first time out, Buchholz, Masterson and Miley were disasters in their second start. Well, to be fair, Masterson looked OK for the first four innings before falling apart in the fifth. Buchholz and Miley were bad from the first pitch, each walking the leadoff hitter.

We knew the Red Sox were a team without an ace heading into the season. Now, they look like a team without a No. 2 starter as well.

Rick Porcello went eight innings in Monday’s 9-4 win over the Nationals, but he has given up three home runs in his first two starts and living dangerously high in the strike zone for a guy known a sinkerball pitcher.

We know we can’t trust Buchholz, and we honestly have no idea what we’re getting in Masterson and Miley.

Since it doesn’t appear the Red Sox will trade for Hamels anytime soon, if at all, the importance of Kelly to the rotation is magnified with the struggles of the other three starters.

While he was 6-4 with a 4.20 ERA in Boston and St. Louis last season and it seems highly unlikely he’ll beat out King Felix for the Cy Young, Kelly has given us reason to be slightly optimistic for a solid 2015.

Kelly went 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA in helping lead the Cardinals to the World Series. Plus, Kelly seems to own the Yankees.

However, Kelly has never pitched more than 124 innings, a statistic that will definitely not help garner any Cy Young votes.

Kelly doesn’t have to win the Cy Young for the Red Sox to be successful. It would sure help, though, if his January radio comments don’t look laughable by the time the dog days of summer set in.

The Sox need Kelly to be a 200-inning pitcher who doesn’t give up seven runs in the first inning of any start this season. It will be very good for Boston if he can just be a guy who shows the rest of the league that at very least the Red Sox have a solid No. 2 in their rotation.

But if you feel we need a Cy Young Award winner, rest assured that Kelly got one major prediction right during that appearance on WEEI. Kelly told Mut and Bradford that the Patriots were going to beat the Seahawks.

If that confident pitcher goes 2 for 2 as a prognosticator, Red Sox fans will have the last laugh.