BOSTON -- With the clock ticking ever closer to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, several quality relievers (Brad Hand, Zach Britton, Thomas Pressly) have been dealt in recent days. Where does this leave the Red Sox?President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski continues to pursue relievers across the game,
BOSTON -- With the clock ticking ever closer to Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, several quality relievers (Brad Hand, Zach Britton, Thomas Pressly) have been dealt in recent days. Where does this leave the Red Sox?
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski continues to pursue relievers across the game, but there is a dual task that could be equally important.
The Red Sox are trying to fix Joe Kelly.
In a crisp ninth inning to close out Saturday's 10-4 win over the Twins, Kelly actually recorded four outs (one of his two strikeouts was a passed ball) and threw 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes.
"It was a good night for Joe, said Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie. "Go out there, throw strikes, he had good spin on the fastball, manipulated some balls. It was good to see and good to see him have good feedback from the hitters, some swing and misses. We're happy to see that."
In 24 appearances from April 1-May 29, Kelly was a top setup man, posting a 0.35 ERA.
In the 20 outings that preceded Saturday, Kelly had a 9.98 ERA and had 13 walks in 15 1/3 innings.
"Mechanically, now it's a matter of how we're going to do this, you know, when to get them in the game and see him adjusting, making adjustments," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "We believe in him. The stuff is there. He throws 98, 99 [mph]. You look around the league, there's a lot of relievers struggling, too, and it happens to be the last week of July and everybody kind of gets excited or starts looking at names around the league and all that.
"I do feel he's a very important part of what we're trying to accomplish. I said this in November when I got the job. We'll get him straight. I know he's going to be back and he's going to contribute."
What does Kelly need to do specifically to earn his way back into high-leverage situations?
"I do believe landing that first-pitch breaking ball is very important," said Cora. "He was doing it early in the season and he hasn't been able to do it lately. All of a sudden, it's 1-0, he might throw another one, it's 2-0 and everybody knows he's throwing a fastball and he's not getting swings and misses. I think, step one is to get ahead of hitters."
To get to that end, Kelly continues to work behind the scenes with LeVangie, assistant coach Brian Bannister and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson.
Some of the work appeared to be paying off on Saturday.
"That was good," said Cora. "Not a stressful situation. Command was good and stuff is there. Keep working and landing that breaking ball, which he did an outstanding job of. A step toward the right direction."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and