Kelly's Progress Impresses Red Sox

BOSTON—On the surface, the numbers suggested that Casey Kelly's 2010 season in Double-A—which ended following an Aug. 6 start due to a strained lat muscle—was one of struggle. The 2008 first-rounder posted a 3-5, 5.31 record in 21 starts for Portland, a far cry from the dominance he exhibited in 2009. 

Yet the righthander, who will return to the mound in instructional league, has done nothing to lead the Red Sox to second guess their view of him as a future front-of-the-rotation starter. If anything, his pure stuff appeared more in line with such a projection than ever this season. 

"I know a lot of people look at the numbers and sort of scratch their heads," farm director Mike Hazen said. "We've seen some of the best stuff we've ever seen out of this guy.

"Last year, he was a pretty good pitcher with average stuff. He was carving up younger kids with average stuff. This year, we're seeing plus stuff across the board. We're seeing plus-plus fastball velocity, we're seeing a plus breaking ball and we're seeing a plus changeup."

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Kelly added both height and muscle in the 2010 season (during which he was the second youngest pitcher to throw at least 20 innings in the Eastern League). As a result, he developed more of a power arsenal that he was learning to command over the course of the season. 

That, the Red Sox suggest, influenced both his increased strikeout rate (7.7 per nine innings) and a walk rate that more than doubled this year, from 1.5 to 3.3 per nine innings. 

The 20-year-old Kelly's fastball, which sat at 89-91 mph in 2009, became a consistent 92-94 mph offering and touched 96 in his last start with Portland. His curveball, meanwhile, became a potential strikeout pitch. 

"He takes the mound with big league stuff every time out," general manager Theo Epstein said. "He's a guy you have to look beyond the numbers for.

"Some days he's got a plus curveball. Some days he's got a plus changeup. Sometimes his fastball command isn't as locked in as he needs it to be. He's learning how to pitch without it, without his best stuff on given days." 

Sox Yarns

• After a tough first half, outfielder Josh Reddick hit .368/.392/.658 with nine homers in his first 152 at-bats of the second half with Triple-A Pawtucket. 

• With more than a week left in the season, short-season Lowell (the youngest team in the New York-Penn League) had already set a single-season franchise record with 45 losses.