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Dodgers: Joe Kelly’s Road to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Joe Kelly #56 of the Boston Red Sox delivers during the eighth inning of game five of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 28, 2018 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

From a broken rib to a World Series ring, a seven-year career has been filled with ebbs and flows for Joe Kelly, the newest Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander. The days of Kelly taking the mound in the first inning are gone, as the Dodgers signed him to be a bridge to Kenley Jansen in a rather shaky bullpen.

When Kelly was last at Dodger Stadium, he was hoisting the World Series trophy with the Boston Red Sox. It was the second consecutive year that the Dodgers watched the opposing team celebrate on their mound with the coveted award.

Less than two months after the celebrations, it was announced that the Dodgers signed the right-handed reliever to a three-year-$25-million contract. Kelly would be joining Jansen, Scott Alexander and Pedro Baez in the bullpen — pitchers who were in the dugout watching him strikeout Max Muncy, Manny Machado and Cody Bellinger.

But the 2018 World Series wasn’t the first time Los Angeles was on the receiving end of Kelly’s fastball.

Flashback

As a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Kelly was on the mound to face Hanley Ramirez in Game 1 of the 2013 NL Championship Series. The four-pitch at-bat in the first inning with a runner on first and one out seemingly eliminated the Dodgers from the series.

Before the hairline fracture to his left ribs, Ramirez had a batting average over .400 in the 2013 postseason with four doubles, one triple and a single.

The Dodgers eventually fell to the Cardinals in six games, and St. Louis faced the Red Sox in the World Series where Boston ran away with their third ring in nine years.

Since the 2013 season, injuries led to extended disabled-list stints. Kelly’s career as a starter took a downward toll as his earned run average spiked and the innings pitched were minimized with a strained hamstring.

Kelly was traded to the Red Sox the following season where he was moved to the bullpen in his third year after 35 consecutive starts across two seasons.

Coming out of the bullpen, the former UC Riverside Highlander has seen an increase in his fastball velocity. Kelly’s fastball jumped from 95 MPH to 99 MPH from April 2016 when he was a starter to the following April when his role switched to primarily being a reliever.

In his first full season as a reliever, Kelly dominated batters with the strongest numbers he’s posted in his career. Kelly sported a 2.79 ERA with an average of 8.1 strikeouts, 4.2 walks and 0.5 home runs per nine-innings pitched in 58 innings in the 2017 season.

The following season Kelly’s ERA ballooned to 4.39, but the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Dodgers saw a different side to Kelly in the postseason.

In 11.1 innings pitched in the postseason, Kelly faced 44 batters and only gave up two runs which came against Houston in the AL Championship Series. The hard-throwing Corona High School product took the mound in the eighth inning of the final game in the World Series to strikeout the side.

Injuries have been the main thorn in Kelly’s career but his primary pitch sitting in the high 90s, with the occasional 100 MPH on the radar gun, there is a lot upside to the 30-year-old.

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Written by Megan Garcia

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