Nervous going in, Kelly happy with debut

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Casey Kelly was all smiles.

The Red Sox pitching prospect made his spring debut, working one perfect inning with two strikeouts against Northeastern University on Wednesday afternoon at City of Palms Park. The 20-year-old right-hander tossed 10 pitches (seven strikes).

“I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got off the mound,” said Kelly. “It was a good first outing. To have the crowd, and some of the people playing defense behind me was a tremendous honor.”

Even though the outing was brief, Kelly believes it was a step in the right direction and will help him get comfortable a little more quickly.

“I was very, very nervous going in,” he added. “Once I got on the mound, the competition takes over and you want to go out there and do your best.”

Kelly faced three batters and retired the Huskies’ Tucker Roeder, Tony DiCesare and Frank Compagone in order. He struck out Roeder on a changeup, DiCesare hit a first-pitch fastball and grounded out to second and Compagone struck out on another changeup.

“I think I was more nervous throwing to Victor Martinez than facing hitters,” Kelly said. “I felt good out there, and it was good to get the first one out of the way.”

Martinez was equally impressed with Kelly’s performance.

“He has some great stuff,” Martinez said. “He was throwing his fastball in and out, and mixed in his curveball and changeup. He threw just one inning, but he threw some pretty good quality pitches. I thought he did great.”

The last time Kelly pitched was during the 2009 All-Star Futures Games at Busch Stadium on July 12 in St. Louis. He tossed a perfect sixth inning, retiring the side on nine pitches. When he returned from the All-Star break, Kelly played shortstop for the remainder of the minor league season.

Kelly and the Red Sox decided last December that he would strictly be a pitcher. When he exited the game on Wednesday, he said it didn’t seem like it had been eight months since he last toed the rubber.

“It felt like I’ve been doing it for a while now,” he said. “I felt good out there. It’s kind of like riding a bike, once you do it once, it comes back to you pretty fast.”