BALTIMORE -- For the second time in less than a week, the Red Sox have removed a pitcher from their underperforming starting rotation.
Five days after demoting Clay Buchholz to the bullpen, the Red Sox optioned Joe Kelly to Pawtucket in the wake of another poor outing.
Kelly was cuffed around for seven hits and seven runs in just 2 1/3 innings in the Red Sox' 13-9 loss to the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night.
That start, coming on the heels of a bad start in Toronto in which he allowed five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings, was enough to earn Kelly a trip back to the minor leagues.
"It came down to the inconsistency with his command overall,'' said John Farrell after the loss, "and particularly fastball command. When he made mistakes up in the strike zone, or fell behind in the count, (the Orioles) squared a number of balls up.''
Kelly's first start following a disabled list stint for a shoulder impingement offered plenty of promise. He limited the Indians to one hit over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts, but as has been a career-long pattern, he couldn't continue that precision for long.
"When he (first) came back,'' said Farrell, ''it didn't look like he was overthrowing. He was staying in his delivery well, that was a consistent energy and effort that allowed him to command the fastball. That hasn't been the case the last two times out.
"That's been the nemesis for Joe - blessed with a golden arm and tremendous stuff, but the execution has not been as consistent.''
Kelly offered no excuses for his erratic command, which saw him issue three walks and consistently pitch from behind.
"I wasn't commanding the baseball at all,'' said Kelly. "It was just a lack of fastball command where I wasn't putting the ball where it needed to be. From there, I was falling behind hitters and trying to get back into counts, it just wasn't happening for me.''
Kelly said he noted "a couple of different things'' mechanically that need to be addressed, including a dropped arm slot in his delivery.
"I've got to stay on top of the ball a little better,'' he said.
Of the demotion to Triple A, Kelly said: "Obviously, I didn't see it coming, but it's the move they decided to make. I'm just going to go down there and continue to try to get better at what I do and commanding the baseball and try to get back as soon as I can.''
The Sox have two off-days next week, which means they don't have a need for a fifth starter until June 11.
Asked if Buchholz might be a candidate to reclaim his spot, Farrell wouldn't commit.
"We have yet to address that,'' said Farrell. "We've got some work to do and we've got to remain consistent with everyone else. We'll (figure) out who that guy in the rotation will be.''
This is the second time in as many seasons that the Red Sox have sent Kelly to Pawtucket. He was optioned back to Triple A last June 25, where he remained for four starts before being recalled.
After his recall, Kelly went on a stretch that saw him win eight straight games before he was shut down in September with shoulder soreness.