Joe Kelly is the front runner to take the fifth and final spot in the Red Sox rotation this season, but that’s all he is — the front runner. He’s a rotation hopeful, if you will.
Kelly might have a handful of big league experience, but the righty is expected to be met with stiff competition from Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, both lefties and both highly touted young pitchers.
Kelly can bring the heat, as everyone saw last year. And he won all six of his starts last August. But he struggled mightily early on in the season. He can bring the heat, topping out in the double digits. But consistency seemed to be an issue for him in 2015.
Johnson was injured for much of last year, so he was limited to just one start — and it went well. He threw more curveballs than he should of, because he was pitching injured. Even so, he allowed two runs in five innings. That’s not why he’s in competition though. The lefty is in competition because he has impressive command of his pitches for a younger guy and his fastball sits in the mid-90’s.
Owens, of course, is the wild child everyone saw last year. He’s 6-foot-6 and he was in the team’s rotation for much of last season. He doesn’t overpower anyone and he didn’t have the best command. Yet somehow, the 23-year-old was half decent, going 4-4 with a 4.57 ERA in 11 starts.
If Kelly does not win the spot, then certainly he would be an enticing bullpen option because of how sharp his stuff is.
Regardless, they all have minor league options remaining which makes it seem that only the winner will stay in the bigs and the two losers will go to the PawSox rotation. That is because the last two guys projected to make the Red Sox bullpen, knuckleballer Steven Wright and left-handed specialist Tommy Layne, are out of options and the Red Sox don’t want to have to designated them for assignment because they’d probably lose them.
The four rotation locks appear to be: David Price, Clay Buchholz, Eddie Rodriguez and Rick Porcello.