Joe Kelly (kellyjo05)

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Joseph William Kelly Jr.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Joe Kelly is a pitcher who made his major league debut in 2012. He is the son of Joe Kelly [1], a starting NFL linebacker for 7 years, and is also a distant relative of gangster "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Kelly was excellent as a freshman, going 3-1 with 6 saves and a 1.32 ERA for UC Riverside. Collegiate Baseball named him a Freshman All-American. He also made first-team All-Big West Conference. He was one of three freshman pitchers picked for Team USA's roster for the 2007 Pan American Games. In the Games, he allowed two hits, two walks and two runs (one earned) in two innings but got the win against the host Brazilian national team. The USA won a Silver Medal. Kelly then gave up 3 runs in two innings in the 2007 World Port Tournament. For the summer, he was 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 outings for the US; he tied Jordy Mercer for third on Team USA in appearances.

Kelly had a sophomore slump big time in 2008. He went 2-1 with six saves but with a 9.35 ERA and a 1.96 WHIP for Riverside. In '09, Kelly saved 12 games but his record was otherwise unimpressive at 1-1, 5.65. He set the UCR record with 24 career saves. The St. Louis Cardinals still made him their third-round pick of the 2009 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Jeff Ishii and began his pro career that summer.

The Cards assigned the right-hander to the Batavia Muckdogs. In 16 games in 2009, he went 2-3 with a save and a 4.75 ERA, striking out 30 in 30 1/3 IP. After another so-so season with the Quad Cities River Bandits in 2010, when he went 6-8, 4.62, he broke through as a prospect in 2011. That year, he was a combined 11-6, 3.68 between the Class A Palm Beach Cardinals and AA Springfield Cardinals. In 2012, he was only 2-5, but with a solid 2.86 ERA in 12 starts with the AAA Memphis Redbirds when he got the call to the big leagues.

Kelly made his major league debut with the Cardinals on June 10, 2012, giving up 1 run in 5 innings in a start against the Cleveland Indians. He earned his first major league win on June 22nd, over the Kansas City Royals after the Cards staked him to a 4-0 league before he threw his first pitch. He pitched 6 innings, leaving the game with an 11-3 lead. On June 25th, he was used as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the 10th inning of a game against the Miami Marlins; confusion over a double switch made the previous inning had forced Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to use his last available position player, and Kelly was his last option to pinch-hit for reliever Victor Marte. He made his manager proud by beating out an infield single, driving in a key run as the Cards held on for an 8-7 win. He ended his rookie season with a record of 5-7, 3.53 in 24 appearances, including 16 starts, pitching a total of 107 innings. he then made seven appearances in the postseason, all in relief, giving up 2 runs in 7 2/3 innings as the Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 NLCS after upsetting the Washington Nationals in the Division Series.

In 2013, Kelly pitched 37 times for the Cardinals, including 15 starts. He was outstanding in both roles - as a starter and as a long reliever - with a record of 10-5, 2.69. He pitched a total of 124 innings, striking out 79 batters. In the postseason, he was part of the cards' starting rotation, getting the nod over the more heralded Shelby Miller. He started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates and gave up 3 runs in 5 1/3 innings; in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he started Games 1 and 5. In the opener, he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings, and the Cardinals eventually won the game 3-2, but he was the loser in Game 5, 6-4, after giving up 4 runs to the Dodgers in 5 innings. In the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, he started Game 3 on October 26th at Busch Stadium and had a good performance, giving up 2 runs in 5 1/3 innings, as the Cardinals were able to pull out a 5-4 win, but then lost the next three contests and the Series before Joe could pitch again. Overall, he was 0-1, 4.15 in his four postseason start.

Kelly was expected to be a member of the Cardinals' starting rotation all season in 2014, but he was slowed down by injuries, missing all of May and June, and was limited to 7 starts, during which he went 2-2, 4.37. Making a bid to return to the World Series, the Cardinals engineered a rare trade with their Fall Classic opponents of the previous year, the Boston Red Sox, on July 31st, and Joe went to Boston alongside Allen Craig in return for veteran starter John Lackey and prospect Corey Littrell. It was clear that the Red Sox were looking at him as a pillar of their starting rotation for the future and he was very solid in his first start, against his former team on August 6th, as he gave up only a run on 3 hits in 7 innings but ended up with a no-decision. On August 12th, he became the first Red Sox pitcher to steal a base since Bill Landis back on September 8, 1969. He had reached base on a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt when he noticed that Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mat Latos was not paying him any attention; he took off for third and made it standing up. No major league pitcher had stolen third base since Ted Lilly in 2008, and for the Red Sox, one had to go back to 1959 when Tom Brewer had pulled the feat ! He had another strong start, with 2 runs allowed in 6 innings, but ended up with another no-decision. He ended up going 4-2, 4.11 in 10 starts for the Red Sox, giving him a combined record of 6-4, 4.20 in 17 starts.

The Red Sox were counting on Kelly to be a pillar of the starting rotation in 2015, but he started the year slowly. At the end of July, his record was only 2-6, with an ERA of 5.94, and he had spent a month on the disabled list the last week of June and the first three of July. One positive sign was that he was constantly being clocked among the leaders in the American League for fastball velocity among starting pitchers, a sign that even if the results were not good, his stuff was. He began a remarkable turnaround on August 1st, when he defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 11-7. He then won his next seven starts as well, and by September 9th, his record had improved to 10-6 and his ERA had dropped over a full run, to 4.70. The eight consecutive winning starts were the most by a Red Sox starter since recently enshrined Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez had won 9 straight in his superlative 1999 season. He finished the year at 10-6, 4.82 in 25 starts, with a career-high 134 1/3 innings and 110 strikeouts.

He began the 2016 season in the Red Sox's rotation. He got shelled in his first start, giving up 7 runs in 3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 8th but escaped with a no-decision. He won his next start then on April 19th, he had to leave a game against the Tampa Bay Rays because of shoulder soreness after recording only 2 outs and making 23 pitches and was immediately placed on the disabled list. He returned on May 21st by giving up only one hit in 6 2/3 innings to record a win against the Cleveland Indians, but was then hit hard in his next two starts. On June 1st, he allowed 7 runs to the Baltimore Orioles without making it out of the 3rd inning and was sent down to the minors after the game. By then, the Red Sox were competing for first place in the AL East after a couple of tough seasons, and could not afford to gamble with Kelly's inconsistency when he took the mound every fifth day. He came back in September, now working as a reliever, and was a completely different pitcher. His command of his fastball was now outstanding, as he was making one scoreless appearance after another. He struck out 11 batters over 7 innings in his first 6 appearances, not giving up any runs. On September 25th, he pitched the final 2 2/3 innings of a 3-2 Boston win over the Tampa Bay Rays in 10 innings. In that game, Boston pitchers set a major league record by striking out 21 batters in the first 9 innings, and he recorded the last two of these in the 9th. He had earlier bailed the Sox out of serious trouble when he had induced pinch-hitter Nick Franklin to ground into an inning-ending double play with two men on in the 8th. The win gave him a record of 4-0 on the year and, in effect, he saved his own win as he struck out two more batters in pitching a scoreless 10th.


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