Boston Red Sox Rumors: Joe Kelly Minor League Bound? Eduardo Rodriguez To Make MLB Debut Thursday

As the Boston Red Sox announced that top lefty pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez will join the big league club and make his Major League debut start Thursday, rumors have surrounded fireballing starter Joe Kelly — who despite a fastball that tops out around 98 miles per hour has allowed five runs or more in five of his nine starts so far this season.

Even as several of the Red Sox starters have turned their seasons around, and faltering Justin Masterson languishes on the disabled list, Kelly has proven a weak link. The latest Kelly debacle came on Monday in Minnesota when the 26-year-old lasted just 1 and two-thirds innings, getting shelled for seven runs on eight hits and a walk, striking out no one.

Longtime Red Sox correspondent Sean McAdam, who now covers the team for Comcast SportsNet, said that he believes Kelly is on “thin ice” with the Red Sox organization, and may be afforded just one more start to find the fastball command that has been missing throughout this season, and that is crucial to Kelly’s success with his stuff, which should be overpowering but so far has been anything but.

McAdam said that if Kelly continues to struggle, a demotion to the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox could be next for the 2009 third-round St. Louis Cardinals draft pick. The time in the minors would allow the righthander time to work out his issues away from the pressures of an American League East race.

But another, possibly more productive assignment for Joe Kelly could be a move to the Red Sox bullpen. That was the move that ESPN baseball correspondent proposed in an interview Wednesday.

“At some point if they decide to put him out there I think he has a chance to be dynamic because of his stuff,” Olnet said, speaking to WEEI radio. “If Joe’s in a position where he knows that once every two or three days he’s coming out of the bullpen for 18 to 20 pitches, he could be someone who could really light up a radar gun and change the options for (Red Sox Manager) John Farrell in the eighth or ninth inning.”

While McAdam said that the Red Sox might “swap” Kelly with the Pawtucket minor league team for top lefty prospect Eduardo Rodriguez — and the Red Sox have indeed named the 22-year-old Venezuelan as their starter for Thursday night’s game in Texas against the Rangers — the team reportedly plans to ship Rodriguez back to Pawtucket as soon as Thursday’s game ends.

Rodriguez has looked highly impressive in eight AAA starts this year, posting a 2.98 ERA with 44 strikeouts against just seven walks in 48 and one-third innings.

Rodriguez has tended to allow a few more base hits than Farrell or Boston General Manager Ben Cherington might like to see, however, surrendering 46 so far — but on the plus side, only two home runs — for a WHIP of 1.10.

Rodriguez was picked up last season from the Baltimore Orioles organization in a trade-deadline swap for Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller. The Red Sox rookie catcher Blake Swihart caught Rodriguez at the minor league level and had praise for the lefty.

“It’s just sneaky,” Swihart said, describing Rodriguez’ 94-mph fastball. “Everything is hard, and everything moves so much it’s effective.”

Rumors around Boston after Thursday could turn out to be, if Rodriguez impresses in his Red Sox debut, do Farrell and Cherington reconsider their plans to ship him straight back to Pawtucket? Or do they hand his plane ticket to Joe Kelly instead?

[Image: Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images]