After a devastating injury put his season in jeopardy, a Red Sox fan favorite could soon be making a return to Fenway Park.
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Reliever Zack Kelly continued his rehab assignment on Tuesday, starting for Single-A Salem down in Virginia on a 20-pitch limit. It was the second game he’s played since he was placed on the injury list earlier this year, as he pitched for High-A Greenville on Friday.
Kelly had been sidelined since April 12, when he fell to the ground with tears in his eyes after throwing a pitch that appeared to have hurt his right elbow. He left the game shortly after and eventually underwent surgery on his elbow before being placed on the 60-day injury list.
This was no ordinary rehab game for Kelly, though. He pitched in Salem’s Carilion Clinic Field, about a 20-minute drive from the Daleville, Va. native’s high school. According to The Roanoke Times’ Marc Berman, close to 80-100 friends and family members attended Kelly’s game, including his parents, wife, and even his former youth pastor.
“It was really cool,” Kelly told Berman. “Obviously I haven’t pitched [around] here in a long time.”
Kelly left the mound in the first inning after walking two batters and giving up a run that would ultimately earn him the loss for this game. Despite his performance, the hometown hero received an ovation from the crowd as he departed.
“It didn’t go as I wanted,” Kelly said, “But … the ovation coming off [the mound] was special.”
Kelly’s rehab assignment in Salem will reportedly last one week, with two more appearances on Friday and Sunday. After that, he will move up to Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester barring any setbacks.
Taking the mound at Fenway Park before September ends would certainly be a full-circle moment for Kelly, whose season appeared to be in doubt once he went down against the Rays on April 12. But if everything goes right for him, Kelly could be returning to Boston just in time to provide a boost to the team’s playoff push.
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