Kelly turning to pitching
INDIANAPOLIS -- Casey Kelly, the 2008 top draft pick who has been cited as part of the price the Sox would have to pay the Blue Jays in a package for Roy Halladay, is dropping the two-way game he played in his first pro season, pitching half the season, then playing shortstop for the remainder, in favor of pitching full time.
Kelly informed Theo Epstein by phone a couple of days ago of his decision after a party of Sox officials led by the GM flew to Fort Myers, Fla., a week ago to meet with their athletically precocious 19-year-old phenom. The Sox's preference all along was that Kelly, who saw himself as an everyday player, would embrace pitching, but Epstein wanted him to make that call on his own.
On the face of it, the decision should not have been a tough one. As a pitcher, Kelly is one of the best prospects in the game, one who could show up on the big league team's radar, Epstein said, within the next year or two. By Epstein's calculations, the kid has four plus pitches -- two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a power curve and a changeup -- and might be adding a slider to that already formidable repertoire.
Then there is his makeup. "You get the feeling watching him," Epstein said, "that he almost looks like a big leaguer."
As a shortstop, the early returns suggested a kid hardly on the cusp of big league stardom: a cumulative .222 average in 40 minor league games, a .171 average in the Arizona Fall League. Too small a sample size to determine that Kelly wouldn't put it together eventually, but one leaving significantly more doubt than his pitching line.
There was no quid pro quo for Kelly's decision, Epstein said, but the young player will be invited to big league camp this spring, and Epstein acknowledged that he could pitch in the high minors in 2010, which suggests Kelly could open the season at Double-A Portland.
Epstein's stirring endorsement of Kelly's skills, meanwhile, underscored the improbability of Boston's including him in a package for Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez or Felix Hernandez, prizes sought by the Red Sox at the trading deadline this past summer and still on their wish list, although, of the three, only Halladay appears likely to be moved at this time.