BALTIMORE -- Upon further review, the Red Sox can go as long as June 18 before needing a fifth starter again, and indications are they intend to do just that.
The Sox optioned Joe Kelly to Pawtucket minutes after they lost 13-9 to the Orioles here Wednesday night. The night marked the second straight poor start from Kelly. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings and was knocked around for seven runs while walking three.
Manager John Farrell said that the Sox needed a fresh arm -- they got one in replacing Kelly with reliever Noe Ramriez -- and the number of off-days on the schedule allowed for a four-man rotation for the next few turns.
"As we have discussions, (it will be) all internal candidates to choose from,'' said Farrell, "when that need arises. There's no need to pitch anyone on short rest and I think that's the approach we'll go with right now.''
The candidates: Kelly himself, Clay Buchholz, Henry Owens and Roenis Elias.
"We'll take the next two-plus weeks to evaluate all of that,'' Farrell said. "We've got some time here to work through that.''
For the time being, that allows the Sox to carry eight relievers, giving the team a deeper bullpen to lighten the load.
Kelly, meanwhile, noted that he was guilty of dropping his arm slot Wednesday, leading to inconsistent command with his fastball.
But Farrell saw other problems, too.
"In my view of Joe,'' said Farrell, "it's all about the effort and energy level in his delivery. When he first (came back), he wasn't overthrowing the baseball. He had very good command. And then, as that energy climbs, so does the number of balls thrown. It's all about harnessing your energy and your abilities.
That's what continually stressed because when you get quicker to home plate, you ramp up the energy and you're going to be throwing across your body and there's going to be misfires.
"That's what we're battling...We need better. Bottom line.''
Farrell said there are some similarities to last year, when Kelly was also optioned in June to work through things.
"It does center around command,'' Farrell said.