Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Top prospect Kelly nearing big decision

Casey Kelly really can't make up his mind.

"From a pitching standpoint, I looked at it as playing football," he said. (Kelly was a highly touted recruit as a quarterback as well as a baseball player.) "You play once a week. You have a week to prepare. I liked having four days to mentally prepare for a game. If it was coming off a long bus trip, you had time to relax and get your thoughts together."

Relaxing. Mental preparation. Spreading it out.

That's the appeal of pitching.

The appeal of hitting, then?

"At shortstop, I loved playing every day," he said. "Playing every day and hitting is something I love to do."

Playing every day.


For all of the success Kelly had on the mound this season -- and he had tremendous success earning Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors -- it doesn't sound as though he's decided his future necessarily is as a pitcher.

He'll even participate in the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox as a shortstop and a part-time third baseman. Being part of the team's taxi squad means he'll get some extra at-bats while playing only two days a week.

(One naturally has to wonder how that will help him make his decision: Getting to hit but only playing in games twice a week? It's the best of both worlds!)

The Red Sox haven't been subtle about their desires. The award bestowed upon Kelly on Tuesday only emphasized the role in which they see their former first-round draft pick.

It's hard to blame them, either.

Kelly had a 1.12 ERA in nine starts at Single-A Greenville and a 3.09 ERA in eight starts after a promotion to Single-A Salem. By the middle of the summer, he'd leapfrogged names like Lars Anderson and Ryan Kalish and cemented himself as the top prospect in the organization.

He then hit .224 and OBP'ed .305 in 151 plate appearances at Single-A Greenville, striking out more than twice as often as he walked.

"To split it up between pitching and hitting was a task," he said, "but having two seasons was one I really enjoyed."

Kelly and the Red Sox likely will have to make a decision quickly after the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League's season. (The Solar Sox play their final game on Nov. 19.) A year ago, he began his preparations to pitch in December, and he'll have to focus those preparations even more if he's going to endure a full season on the mound and all the innings that go with that.

"This year was eye-opening," he said. "Playing both, it doesn't really help either side from the pitching standpoint or the shortstop standpoint. ... We'll get it done a little faster so I can get ready for pitching or get ready for shortstop because the workouts are totally different for position players and pitchers."

He didn't make it sound like the organization had much say in the matter, either.

"(I'll do) whatever I want to do in my heart," he said. "I followed that from the beginning. When I got drafted, I could have played football at Tennessee and followed what I wanted to do with my heart. I think I'll do the same with this decision."

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