Zack Kelly during spring training in Fort Myers. Courtesy of Kelly.
Zack Kelly during spring training in Fort Myers. Courtesy of Kelly.

Following successful surgery and a summer of uninterrupted rehab, Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Zack Kelly said Sunday he is hopeful he will be available to help his baseball team’s attempt to reach the postseason.

However, if all goes well over the next week, he will make a quick stop back home to help Boston’s local farm team wrap up its last homestand.

The Lord Botetourt High graduate who grew up in Daleville said he has progressed enough following nerve surgery last May and is scheduled to begin a series of minor league rehab assignments starting on Friday at Boston’s High-A club in Greenville, South Carolina.

But after that, it will be a homecoming affair, as he is scheduled to throw three times in Salem, where the Red Sox will wrap up their Low-A Carolina League season with the Carolina Mudcats starting on Sept. 5.

Unless something comes up, Kelly is scheduled to pitch a single inning for Salem in the series opener, the day after Labor Day, then on Friday and Sunday.

“It’s going to be a fun week,” Kelly said. “I’m hoping there will be a lot of people there. That would be cool.”

The upcoming week of rehab assignments are the next step of recovery for Kelly, who underwent elbow surgery back to reattach a nerve in his pitching arm, just weeks after being removed from a game against the Tampa Bay Rays due to arm pain.

Kelly posted a couple of video updates on his social media channels during the summer and in the past week started facing live batters in simulated workouts.

“Everything is going real well,” Kelly said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “I don’t have too many complaints. Everything feels good. I’m where I want to be, now it’s just about getting back into game mode and checking off some boxes.”

The surgery was the second for Kelly in the past three years. He underwent Tommy John surgery back in the spring of 2020 when he was part of the Angels organization. He said going through the recovery then gave him more confidence about rehab this time.

Before his injury, Kelly had appeared in six games for the Red Sox, allowing three runs and six hits, while striking out six batters over 7 1/3 innings. He had a 3.68 earned run average.

“It’s just about getting ready,” he said. “I know more now than I did back in 2020. I feel my status is a little more solidified now that it was then, so that gives you some peace of mind.

“I think the biggest thing right now is trusting that all the rehab I’ve done has gotten me back to where I need to be.”

His recent procedure was not nearly as invasive as ligament replacement. In fact, Kelly said he felt better as soon as he woke up this time.

“The first thing I told my wife was that I could feel my fingers again,” Kelly said. “It was a relief. It was a freak kind of incident, and this wasn’t exactly how I wanted to spend my year. But knowing everything went as well as it could made it worth it.”

That didn’t mean that the past few months were easy. Kelly and his family, wife Brittany and son Kayden, have been living in Fort Meyers, Florida, the home of the Red Sox spring training facilities. And summers in Florida are a bit balmier than February and March.

Kelly also missed being around his big-league teammates but has stayed as involved as possible. He has watched every game during his absence and had a chance to spend a couple of days in Boston with the team back in June.

“It’s been as good as it can be, I guess,” Kelly said. “… Whenever I reached a goal, I heard from members of the team and coaching staff, so that always feels good.”

On the other hand, missing the majority of the 2023 season meant Kelly got to spend much more time than expected with his son, who will celebrate his first birthday during his father’s time with the Salem Red Sox.

“He took his first steps about two weeks ago,” Kelly said of Kayden “The fortunate part of the rehab is that I didn’t miss moments like that.”

In the weeks following the Salem assignment, Kelly will likely be tested to see how he handles a multi-inning situation as well as back-to-back games. If he passes those tests, Kelly hopes he will be ready to help the Red Sox make a final push into the American League playoffs. Going into Monday’s three-game home series with the Houston Astros, Boston sits 4 1/2 games out of the last wild card slot.

“I’m hoping it works out that we’re still in it when I get back there,” Kelly said. “We have a tough schedule (the next few weeks) ahead of us.”

See our previous story on Zack Kelly’s path to the majors.

See our previous story on the British manager of the Salem Red Sox.

Steve Hemphill has worked for more than 30 years as both a sports reporter and editor. He is the former...