When the Sox said Kimbrel would need just three weeks to return from knee surgery, it seemed an impossibly short recovery period. But here we are, three weeks later, and Craig Kimbrel is back on the 25-man roster, with Joe Kelly optioned to Pawtucket to make room.
What's there really to say? Kimbrel is back, and the bullpen is happy to have him. Brad Ziegler has been good for the Red Sox, but they're certainly better as a pair to go with Barnez, Tazawa, and Abad. There's still two spots left, and it's not entirely clear who will take them, but the smart money is probably on Robbie Ross Jr. and Clay Buchholz for now, with Tommy Layne the second odd man out.
The first, of course, is Joe Kelly. Or second if you count Heath Hembree, who should probably jump Kelly in line right away given that he's looked more like the early-season arm than the struggling pitcher of mid-July in his time back in Pawtucket. Kelly has shown no real improvement in coming out of the pen. Yes, he's shown the ability to live up around triple digits out of the bullpen, but he's still not really doing much of anything with all that velocity. He said he wanted to strike every batter out as a reliever? 1-in-16 with four hits and two walks, with hitters producing an .875 OPS against him even as he's allowed just the one run. He's still just not really fooling major league hitters, or spotting his pitches well enough that he doesn't have to.
But! Happier things! Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, and a bunch of reasonable arms to deal with the set-up duty. The pen is back in shape a lot faster than most would have expected.