LOS ANGELES -- With at least 150 friends and family expected to be in the stands to watch on Friday, Southern California native Joe Kelly will make his first start at Dodger Stadium, a ballpark he frequented as a child.
Kelly grew up in nearby Anaheim and was raised mostly on Angels baseball. But Friday will represent the closest Kelly has come to pitching in his hometown.
"It's going to be fun," Kelly said. "I'm just going to go out there and be the same. I'm going to throw the same here as I would in, say, Milwaukee, though it will probably feel a little different to me. There will be some excitement. I'll just go out there control my energy and try not to put any more pressure on myself."
Pressure was something Kelly did put on his shoulders back in July, when he made his first career start against the Dodgers in St. Louis. Afterward, Kelly noted that his childhood dislike of the Dodgers caused him to be a little more amped up than he needed to be for the start.
In that outing, Kelly allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in six innings.
"I don't want to go out there and try too hard again," Kelly said. "It's not like my last start against them was terrible, but I feel like I could have done a lot better. I'm going to go out there and learn from my mistake."
With the Cardinals' rotation in a precarious position as of late, the rookie Kelly has been one of the most consistent performers. He's made quality starts in 10 of his last 13 outings and has given up a combined four runs in 12 2/3 innings this month.
"He's a tough competitor," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's done a real nice job of trying to figure out how to improve. He's real conscientious in trying to learn how to compete. All those things put together makes really fertile ground to establish yourself in this league and have a long career."