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When you can hit triple digits and strike someone out, that's when it's the most fun."But for the single fastest pitch uncorked this season, nobody -- not even Chapman -- can top Kelly's 102.2 mph flash to Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning April 28 at Fenway Park.That's some serious speed -- or as Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley puts it, “high cheddar with some hair.” That's not half-bad for a 28-year-old converted starter with a 3.82 career ERA whose brushes with fame in a half-dozen big league seasons range from a 5 1/3-inning no-decision in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series for the Cardinals to stopping for a selfie on the field with Derek Jeter during the ceremony before No. I'd be lying if I said I did."In that case, allow Kelly's college coach to say it for him.He finished his college career with 24 saves, a school record. To be honest, I thought the personality would really fit at the end of the ballgame, as well as the stuff.There was something else about Kelly that caused Smith to continue using him at the end of games, even after he built enough arm strength and a credible three-pitch mix to merit at least a chance at being a starter."If you know Joe, he pitches with a little arrogance," Smith says. The situation wasn't going to get too big for him, and he kind of loved that situation."Take, for instance, the game that clinched the Big West championship in 2007.2's final game in 2014 to making Sports Center in February by nailing a full-court shot after a basketball game at Florida Gulf Coast University."Going to the pen, in the back of my mind, it's just something that I always knew I'd get more velocity," Kelly says of his potential for triple-digit radar readings. Louis a couple times, I hit 100-101 in Houston one time at the end of a game. WHENEVER DOUG SMITH turns on his television and sees Kelly dial up 100 mph late in a game for the Red Sox, he wonders only what took so long.Smith had several reasons to use Kelly as a closer at the University of California-Riverside.That's what I liked doing, especially coming in as an 18-year-old kid.
Until the last week of spring training, Kelly was manager John Farrell's top candidate to pitch the eighth inning.As a reliever, he thinks less."I kind of got caught up in the starting role, trying to pitch to what the scouting reports say or what I saw on video.It was like, 'Hey, this guy's not good with a changeup with two strikes,' instead of attacking with how I pitch," Kelly says.No, the burn of a baseball's stitches against the tips of his fingers -- "That tug out of your hand when everything is going right," Kelly says -- usually tells him whatever he needs to know about how hard he's throwing. When the ball doesn't speak to the Boston Red Sox reliever?"Oh, you can hear the crowd," Kelly says, prompting eavesdropping closer Craig Kimbrel to utter an "ooooooh! "That kind of lets you know too."Few pitchers this season are producing more "oooooohs" -- or "aaaaaaahs" for that matter -- than Kelly.
A poor finish to the spring caused him to cede that role to Matt Barnes.