Debut had the trimmings
Clean-cut Kielty makes an impact
The 'fro had to go.
When outfielder Bobby Kielty was released by Oakland July 31, he decided to take some clippers to his bushy head of red hair. New beginnings meant a new hairdo.
"I assumed I was probably going to sign with another team and I didn't want to bring a big Afro," Kielty said yesterday, following his first game with the Red Sox after signing Aug. 7 and spending 10 games with Pawtucket.
"If I knew I was coming to Boston, I probably would have kept it."
Instead of an Afro -- which would have competed with Eric Hinske's new Mohawk for wildest Red Sox hairstyle -- Kielty drew attention for a 2-for-3 day and a bone-jarring catch at the right-field wall in the first inning of a 3-1 loss.
The Angels had already scored twice and had a man on first when Casey Kotchman launched a line drive toward the Los Angeles bullpen.
"I was just mainly going after the ball and I wasn't real focused on the wall," Kielty said. "I ended up diving in and landing on the top of the wall. I was pretty excited."
It didn't look like excitement on Kielty's face when he was doubled over after the catch. More like excruciating pain.
"He felt that," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He stayed in and played, but he's going to be sore. He hit that wall pretty hard."
And it wasn't the first time Kielty and the wall have made acquaintances. Four years ago, when Kielty was with Toronto, he hauled in a catch while falling into the bullpen. In May 2005 he hit the wall by the Pesky Pole and fell into the stands, unable to snag a Jason Varitek walkoff homer.
"That one was probably the worst," Kielty said. "I don't know if I had a slight broken rib or not, but that jacked me up for a while."
But this time Kielty held on and drew his first Fenway Park standing ovation.
"Something like that happens, it's pretty cool," said Kielty, surrounded by a media crowd that dwarfed any he had seen with the Athletics. "Get the fans on your side right away. Hopefully I keep them on my side."
Kielty has Sox management on his side not just for his defense, but also for his ability against lefthanded pitchers. He picked up two singles off Angels starter Joe Saunders, who allowed just six hits in 7 2/3 innings.
And Francona indicated before the game that Kielty will be back in the lineup tonight against Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir, who has a 2.37 ERA in 14 career starts against the Sox. Kielty is 7 for 13 with two homers against the lefty.
"My approach is he's going to throw you a pretty good heater and when you get that heater you've got to hit it," Kielty said. "If you foul it back, he's got a slider that's going to put guys away. I think you have to get him early and hit his fastball."
Kielty's niche will be spelling J.D. Drew, who's hitting just .235 against lefties this year, and Manny Ramírez at the corner outfield spots. And the 31-year-old said he's comfortable with his role. But if he can catch on with the Sox, he just might bring back the 'fro.
"I'll grow it out again as long as I'm here," Kielty said. "Maybe start it all over again."
Daniel Malloy can be reached at email@example.com.