It’s December 2010, and the Padres have just traded star first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox for Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, Eric Patterson, and Casey Kelly. Rizzo and Kelly are considered to be the key trade pieces that helped the Sox pry the three-time All-Star Gonzalez away from San Diego, with the slugging Rizzo being nearly major-league ready, and Kelly, a starting pitcher who was a first-round draft choice in 2008, being the top prospect in the entire Red Sox organization. Kelly is the number 22 prospect in all of baseball.
Fast forward nearly four years. Casey Kelly has pitched a total of six games for the Padres.
After a season of moderate success at Double-A in 2011, and a few starts at Triple-A in 2012 following some elbow issues, the young right-hander was called up to pitch for San Diego in a season that saw the major league club plagued by injuries to its starting pitchers. Kelly made six starts, but was a bit overmatched in his first taste of big-league ball, putting up a 2-3 record with a 6.21 ERA.
Then in the preseason of 2013, it happened. He needed Tommy John surgery. In the course of two years in which the Padres saw more than a half-dozen of their pitchers undergoing the knife, Kelly’s promising career was now also being put on hold.
14 months of recuperation later, and Kelly threw in his first professional games since the surgery. But after four starts, he was shut down again, experiencing soreness in his elbow.
Another four months have now passed. And Kelly is beginning to throw again. Yesterday, Padres’ skipper Bud Black reported that Kelly is throwing long toss. With less than three weeks left in the regular season, is there a chance we’ll see Kelly pitching again this year?
Not likely, according to Black. The plan now is to allow Kelly to continue to rehab slowly, with the hopes that doing so will allow Kelly to remain healthy. And allow him to compete for a roster spot in 2015.
Kelly is an extraordinary talent. His fastball, his curve, and his changeup were each considered to be the best of their type in the Red Sox organization in 2010. Just prior to his surgery, he was still considered the #45 prospect in the country by Baseball America. And even after all this time has passed since the trade, Kelly is still only 24-years-old.
So there’s still time for him to become the player that the Padres thought they were trading for back in 2010. But it will take a little more patience to find out for sure.