The Atlanta Braves entered play on Monday night as leaders of the NL Wild Card race and feeling pretty good about things offensively. The last thing they wanted to see was a pitcher making his major league debut, especially when that pitcher is as talented as San Diego’s Casey Kelly.
The Padres have been one of the best teams in baseball over the past three weeks and they got all the offense they’d need for catcher Yasmani Grandal, who drove in all three San Diego runs in support of his batterymate. Kelly, with some help from the Padres bullpen, did the rest in a 3-0 Padres win.
It Kelly just 87 pitches to work his way through six scoreless frames against the Braves. 53 of those went for strikes and 61 of the 87 were fastballs. All told, he allowed five baserunners on three hits and a pair of walks. He struck out four.
Kelly was a part of the package sent from Boston to San Diego to bring Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. He has been ranked as high as the 24th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America, though he came in at number 76 prior to this season.
The Padres certainly won’t be making serious noise in 2012, but with new ownership in place and a regime that has already committed to keeping some of their better players instead of dealing them away, the future seems bright for the Friars. Petco Park may be a difficult place to attract free agent hitters, but they should have no issue drawing the interest of pitchers. GM Josh Byrnes already used the Petco factor to his advantage last winter when he dealt Mat Latos for a package of young hitters, including Grandal, from the Reds. Those types of moves can be made when you understand that half your games will be played in a park that so severely favors pitchers, you can afford to move premium-level arms and get similar production from second-tier pitchers.
Kelly, of course, is just 22 years old and will be under Padre control for a long time to come.
For more on the Padres, visit Chicken Friars.