After being traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Boston Red Sox on July 31, 2014, Joe Kelly made 14 starts to finish out that season. He remained part of the Red Sox rotation into the 2016 season before being converted to a relief pitcher.
The change in role came after Kelly had been demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and suffered a groin strain. Kelly thrived in the role and was effective out of the bullpen the following season.
However, he labored through much of 2018 and nearly was left off the postseason roster. A last-minute decision to include him paid off tremendously for the Red Sox, as he allowed just two runs (one earned) over 11.1 innings pitched en route to a World Series win.
Kelly parlayed that into a three-year, $25 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers during the offseason. The homecoming was met with struggles, but Kelly has pitched to improve results of late.
Friday presented a different challenge for the right-hander, with the Dodgers beginning a series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Kelly is looking forward to facing his former team and hopes to avoid becoming overwhelmed by what should be a warm reception, per Matt Vautour of MassLive.com:
“Now my body feels good. My mechanics feel good. I’m throwing the ball well. It’s going to be fun to match up against them,” Kelly said. “I’m going to try not to let emotions overwhelm me and just go out there and play the game of baseball. Our team is playing good baseball. They’re playing good baseball. It’s going to be a good matchup. We’ll see how the crowd reactions. Hopefully more cheers than boos.
“The fan reaction will be fun. Warming up, I’ll probably get some cheers. When I come into the game I’ll probably get some cheers, it’s something I’ll enjoy for sure,” he added. “Once I get on the mound it’s all business from there. I’ll try to get ex-teammates out the best I can. ”
Kelly did not appear in the Dodgers’ 8-1 loss in the opener of the 2018 World Series rematch. The Red Sox did play a tribute video as he walked to the bullpen in right field, which was met by an ovation from the fans.
Whenever Kelly next pitches in a game, he’ll do so having limited opponents to a .143/.276/.184 batting line, just one earned run allowed and with 20 strikeouts in 13.1 innings across 12 appearances.