ST. LOUIS — Joe Kelly was shocked when he learned last Thursday that the Cardinals had traded him to the Red Sox. Then he realized that his next start was likely going to be against his old teammates.
Sure enough, Kelly will start for the Red Sox Wednesday night against the Cardinals and one of his best friends, Shelby Miller.
“It’s going to be fun,” Kelly said. “I have to go out there and just pitch and not worry about what team I’m facing. I’m actually looking forward to it.”
The Red Sox flew to St. Louis after Sunday night’s 8-7 loss against the Yankees and Kelly slept in his own bed after being in Boston for two nights. His wife, Ashley, was waiting for him along with the couple’s two dogs.
“I need some clothes. I packed for a day when I left for Boston because I knew I was coming back home right away,” Kelly said. “I have a lot of stuff to figure out.”
Miller was in Kelly’s wedding in November, a week after Miller got married. The two were drafted by the Cardinals in 2009 and made their major league debuts in 2012.
“He always says he’s a better hitter than I am. I guess we’ll see,” Kelly said.
Kelly was 2-2 with a 4.37 earned run average for the Cardinals. He pitched three games in April before going on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. He returned in July and was hit hard in four starts, giving up 16 earned runs on 26 hits and six walks over 19⅔ innings.
Kelly’s 3.08 ERA from 2012-13 ranked 15th among major league pitchers with at least 200 innings. He spent his first full season in the majors in ’13, going 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA in 37 games, 15 of them starts.
Kelly started four games in the postseason, including Game 3 of the World Series against the Red Sox. He allowed two runs on two hits over 5⅓ innings and struck out six in a game St. Louis won, 5-4, at Busch Stadium.
Had the Series gone to a seventh game, Kelly was going to start for the Cardinals against Jake Peavy. It was not something the Red Sox were relishing.
“He’s got great stuff,” first baseman Mike Napoli said. “When I heard we got him, I thought it was a good move.”
Kelly’s fastball sits comfortably at 96 miles per hour and he throws one of the hardest sinkers in the game. He works in a changeup and two breaking pitches, a slider and a curveball.
Kelly will be working on extra rest, having last pitched Wednesday against the Padres.
“Having a few more days time is always good,” he said. “I’ll be ready.”
Kelly arrived in Boston on Friday but was not on the roster. He got a ticket for the game and watched from a box seat behind the plate. He officially joined the team on Saturday and spent two days getting acclimated.
One quick impression: He likes rookie catcher Christian Vazquez.
“That’s guy’s a stud,” Kelly said. “He has a good arm and receives the ball great. It’ll be good to work with him.”
Vazquez grew up in Puerto Rico idolizing the major league catchers Bengie, Jose, and Yadier Molina and eventually worked out with them. He patterns his game after Yadier, the St. Louis All-Star.
“You can see it,” Kelly said. “The way he catches the ball, that’s how Yadi does, too. [Vazquez] picked the right guy to look up to. I’ll let him call the pitches and we’ll go from there.”
Kelly has faced only two of the Cardinals before. Mark Ellis is 2 for 13 against him and A.J. Pierzynski 0 for 2.
“I faced them in spring training. It’s not really that unusual,” he said.
Kelly won’t get lost on Tuesday looking for the visiting team clubhouse. While he was on the disabled list, he took an impromptu tour of the stadium one day.
“I went to the front office and said hello to all the people there. Then I went to the visiting clubhouse to see how nice it was,” Kelly said. “It is nice, really nice.”
Kelly then laughed.
“Never thought I’d be coming back there in another uniform,” he said.
But Kelly said he was fortunate to land in Boston after starting his career in St. Louis.
“Great fans in St. Louis and in Boston, too,” Kelly said. “From one good baseball town to another. You want to play in places like that. Growing up as a kid you think of playing in places like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and St. Louis.”