Casey Kelly Decides To Stick To Pitching

BOSTON—From the beginning, the Red Sox had always believed that Casey Kelly's biggest impact would come on a mound. The team felt that the 2008 first-round pick out of a Florida high school had the athleticism to become a major league position player, but based on the righthander's advanced command of a three-pitch mix (fastball, curve, change), it viewed him as a potential star on the mound.

Yet the team did not want to force a decision on Kelly. If he was turned into a pitcher unwillingly, it might compromise his performance. Instead, the Sox pursued a unique experiment, allowing Kelly (following his pro debut as a shortstop in 2008) to split 2009 between pitching and shortstop. 

His mound dominance was singular: He went 7-5, 2.08 at two levels of A-ball. As a shortstop in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and low Class A South Atlantic League, he hit .222/.302/.340, then amassed a .171/.261/.244 line in the Arizona Fall League.

When asked—and he was asked often—Kelly would suggest that he still considered himself a shortstop. But after the season, he sat down with his agents (Joe Sambito and John Courtright), his father (former big leaguer Pat Kelly), Sox general manager Theo Epstein, farm director Mike Hazen and roving instructor Gary DiSarcina to discuss his career path. 

The 20-year-old reached a pragmatic conclusion, electing to devote all of his energies to pitching.

"My development as a pitcher is obviously a lot further along than shortstop. It's going to take a lot less time for me to impact the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher," Kelly said. "Once we thought about that part of it, because getting to the big leagues is the main goal, it's really a no doubter."

The Sox front office seemed equally thrilled and relieved by the decision. They were prepared to have him continue his development with a split season so that the option of a future as a pitcher would remain intact. Now, with his decision to become a pitcher, that approach will be unnecessary.

"If everything breaks his way," Epstein said, "he could force himself onto the major league radar screen sometime in the next year or two."

Sox Yarns

• The Sox had two players—lefthander Armando Zerpa (Dodgers) and third baseman Jorge Jimenez (Marlins by way of Astros)—selected in the major league Rule 5 draft.

• Ryan Westmoreland, who had season-ending surgery on a broken collarbone, took part in the organization's strength camp for minor leaguers in early December. He'll start throwing and hitting in January, and is expected to be able to play a full season in the outfield.