SAN DIEGO -- After spending the last five days in San Diego participating in the Padres' inaugural winter development program, Casey Kelly came to a conclusion about what he hopes will be his future professional home.
"I really don't want to leave," Kelly said Monday.
Kelly and a handful of other top Padres Minor League prospects are entering their second week of the program that is designed to help ease the transition to the Major Leagues when these players reach that level.
For Kelly, a right-handed pitcher obtained in December from the Red Sox in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, he might not be too far off from a permanent stay in San Diego.
Kelly, rated as the 22nd best Minor League prospect by MLB.com, will open the season with Double-A San Antonio, where he'll begin his third season as a pitcher after moving from shortstop to the mound in 2009 while in the Red Sox organization.
In 2010, Kelly, now 21, was one of the youngest pitchers in the Double-A Eastern League. He had a 5.31 ERA in his first full season as a pitcher as he played shortstop and pitched in 2009 at two Minor League stops.
"Last year was a big year for me as far as trusting the process," Kelly said. "... It was a chance for me to go out there every five days and learn something new. I also learned how to deal with failure."
Kelly pitched 111 innings last season between Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. The Padres, as they did another of their young pitchers, Mat Latos, plan to monitor his innings and workload. They don't envision him exceeding 150 innings, but don't see why Kelly can't move fast through the system.
"The athleticism stands out. ... He does everything pretty easily on a baseball field," said Padres assistant general manager Jason McLeod. "He repeats his delivery; he is a guy that we see having three plus-pitches with command, someone who can possibly help anchor a rotation.
"It's up to him, but he has the talent to be here pretty quick."
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who like Kelly was obtained in the Gonzalez deal, said Monday that he saw Kelly hit 97 mph a few times last season. Typically, though, Kelly's fastball sits around 89-93 mph. Kelly also has what scouts consider to be an advanced changeup and curveball for someone of his age and experience.
"It looks very effortless and his offspeed pitches are really sharp, too. The changeup, I think, is a great pitch," Rizzo said. "All he needs now is repetition."
How highly do the Padres think of Kelly?
"The deal was never going to get done without Kelly's inclusion," said Padres general manager Jed Hoyer last month after the deal was made.
"It's so hard to find affordable starting pitching in our market. Getting a guy that we feel can be in our rotation for a long time -- I think that he's an excellent fit for PETCO Park."