FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Everyone was watching.
For the first time this spring, Red Sox pitching prospect Casey Kelly took the mound for a live batting practice session and everyone wanted to witness it.
General manager Theo Epstein, assistant GM Ben Cherington, director of player development Mike Hazen and Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell were among the many who stood behind the batting cage on Field 3 to see how Kelly would do. Only manager Terry Francona decided to stay away.
Red Sox personnel didn’t expect Kelly to light up the radar gun, or brush back a hitter at this stage; they’re looking for a consistent delivery and arm motion. And Kelly delivered.
“You just kind of focus on what you’re doing, and focus on the catcher, and everything around you is just a blur,” he said. “You’ve just got to take your time.”
The 6-foot-3, 194-pounder, who was the Sox’s first-round selection (30th overall) in the 2008 draft, mixed in all of his pitches on Friday morning. He threw his fastball, changeup and curveball.
Pitch repertoire aside, the most impressive thing about Kelly is the poise and confidence he exudes on and off the field. Nothing seems to bother this kid, especially when all eyes are watching him during a brief BP session.
“He has a professional approach. He’s genuine and poised,” said Farrell. “We’ll see a lot more of that once games begin.”
Around the clubhouse that is stacked with such pitching talent as Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Jon Lackey and Tim Wakefield, Kelly has kept to himself. The 20-year-old right-hander will sit at his locker and observe how the veterans go about their business in a professional manner.
“Right now I haven’t really gotten a chance to ask questions,” he said. “I think after my first couple of starts I’ll ask some questions. Right now it's watching how they go about their business, how they do their workouts, how they go about their pens, and just listening to what they say and what they’re trying to work on. Just be like a sponge and try to absorb everything up.”
When Kelly, a former shortstop before he and the Red Sox decided last December that it would be best for his career path to focus solely on pitching, finished his session on Friday morning, it was clear everyone watching was very happy.
Expectations are extremely high for Kelly, as he’s slated to begin the season at Double-A Portland.
“I think my expectations for myself are a lot higher than anybody else’s,” he said. “So I’m just trying to go out there and learn as much as possible, that will allow me to have a quick start to the season. I’m just trying to work out and condition good so I can stay healthy for the whole season.”