Everyone has changed teams, except for Kelly, who after multiple injury filled years since he threw 142.1 innings in Double-A San Antonio in 2011, is once again back in the Texas League and is slowly stretching out as a starter after beginning the year in the bullpen.
Because of the variances in the number of innings he has pitched, and in different roles as a starter and reliever, his number are inconsistent. Right now his biggest problem is with left-handed batters who are hitting .342 against him in 86 plate appearances as opposed to right-handed batters who are only at .214.
When he is on Kelly, 25, at six-foot-three and 215 pounds, is not only one of the better athletes among pitchers in the organization - but one of the better athletes period. He spent his first two years in professional baseball spending half of the season at shortstop and the other half as a pitcher. Additionally, he turned down a football scholarship to the University of Tennessee to sign with the Red Sox out of high school.
We caught up with Casey at the end of May when we were in San Antonio to talk about coming back from injuries and “flo”.
The last time we spoke with you it was about making the transition from shortstop to becoming a full-time pitcher. You got hurt and had Tommy John surgery.
Could you take us a little through what you went through?
Casey Kelly: I ended up getting surgery in April of 2013. Went through the whole process of rehab. First you work on getting your mobility back and then you progress onto the strength stage. Then you slowly go into throwing.
It’s all about building up. Some days you are not going forward, but it’s also all about not having a setback. It’s as much a mental as a physical challenge because you just have those days when you don’t want to get up and go through the same thing every day.
Mentally seems to be the toughest part. As someone who was a pretty accomplished athlete in high school, both in football and as a position player in baseball; how did you learn to differentiate on pushing through something as opposed to ‘if I do this I could really get hurt.’?
Casey Kelly: I pushed through it for awhile. I originally got hurt it in 2012 and tried to rehab it without going through surgery but it was still there. It just got to the point where I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to help the team win. When I got there, I knew I needed to do something different.
I wasn’t throwing as hard and the pain in my elbow was getting worse. I wasn’t hurt, it was an injury. I just wanted to get it fixed and come back as soon as possible.
You were back out last year and then you had to shut it down after a few starts. What happened?
Casey Kelly: I was feeling great and then my last start here I felt that same pain on my last few pitches. I originally couldn’t straighten my arm out after the game and thought I was injured again.
But I went back to the doctor and got an MRI and it was all good. They said that I had strained my flexor mass and just needed to heal from that. I tried to play catch two weeks later and it still hurt, so I had to give it some more time.
I ended up having a PRP injection.
What is that?
Casey Kelly: Platelet-Rich Plasma Injection. It is where they took blood out of your system and they get the best of your platelettes of blood out. It’s not blood doping, because they don’t put anything in, it just helps heal injuries quicker. I think Kobe Bryant had it for his knee.
I rested for six weeks and then began my throwing program and haven’t had any pain since.
What comes back quicker your velocity or feel? I’ve always heard that the feel comes back last. Was that true with you?
Casey Kelly: Not so much. It only took me a few outings to get my command back. The guys that have a tough time with command are guys that had bad mechanics to start with. So they are trying to fix their mechanics while healing from the injury - which is tough.
Has it been difficult getting used to coming out of the bullpen?
Casey Kelly: A little bit because it is a different mentality and warm-up process. Learning how to do it was a fun transition. Although now I’ve been getting stretched out and am going back to starting.
You still throw the same stuff correct? A lot of two-seamers, curve and change-up, correct?
Casey Kelly: Correct. The two-seamer sinks into the righties and curve goes away from them.
Obviously getting being healthy and getting back on the mound is huge. Now you are there what are you looking to work on the most?
Casey Kelly: For me I just haven’t really pitched in two years, so it’s about getting as many in-game reps as I possibly can. I feel like it will come back pretty quick and I am feeling more and more comfortable.
What happened to yours?
Casey Kelly: [laughs] that was my “rehab” flo. When I was hurt I grew my hair out and told myself when I was healthy I would cut it off and make a fresh start.
Jaff is still rockin’ his and has mucho “flo”.
You have to have that look before you get married. Then it won’t be allowed.
Casey Kelly: [laughs] Most definitely, that is the plan.