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Kelley’s pitch count? Less than 137

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By Kirby Arnold
Herald Writer
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Seattle Mariners haven’t reached the dire-straits stage in the process to fill the back of their starting rotation because of the abdominal injury to Cliff Lee.
But, when the pitching lineups were announced for the Mariners’ split-squad games today, it raised a few eyebrows.
Felix Hernandez will start against the Indians — no surprise there since it keeps him in line to pitch on opening day April 5 at Oakland.
Shawn Kelley, however, will start the other split-squad game against the Royals.
The Mariners used Kelley mostly an inning at a time out of the bullpen last year, but this month they’ve increased his workload in order to use him more in middle relief. Manager Don Wakamatsu said the team talked during the offseason about prepping Kelley as a starter — something he did in college — but abandoned that thought.
When the pitching pairings for today came out, though, it rekindled speculation that the Mariners, who are considering multiple options for the end of the rotation, may have turned back to Kelley.
Uh, no.
The Mariners have no plans to convert Kelley into a starter. With Doug Fister still not ready for games after he was hit by a line drive last week, the Mariners decided to use today’s game against the Royals to build up their relievers.
Besides Kelley, right-handers Kanekoa Texeira, Mark Lowe and Chad Cordero will pitch for the Mariners.
“That’s really trying to make up for Fister, but we’re also using it to our advantage to stretch those guys out a little bit,” Wakamatsu said.
With the exception of two rehab outings with the Mariners’ rookie-level Arizona team last summer, this will be Kelley’s first start of any kind since the 2007 NCAA regionals. That’s when his Austin Peay team faced Vanderbilt and Kelley locked up with some guy named David Price in a classic pitching duel.
Vandy beat the Governors 2-1 in 11 innings, and Kelley pitched 10 of those for Austin Peay.
“I threw 137 pitches,” he said. He admitted to being a little gassed at the end, “but I didn’t walk anyone.”
Kelley gave up five hits and struck out nine before he was pulled. Price went nine innings, also allowing five hits and two walks but struck out 17.
Nearly three years later, Kelley will warm up as a starter again, facing the Royals today. He figures to go three innings or until he reaches his pitch count. How many might that be?
“Not 137,” he said.
More like 45-50 and three innings, Wakamatsu said.
Story tags » Mariners

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