Joe Kelly was remembered by the Red Sox and their fans in a familiar way on Friday night. On his walk to the bullpen.
Kelly, the former Red Sox reliever who signed a three-year, $25 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers in the offseason, returned to Fenway Park for the first time since the World Series but this time he walked from the opposing dugout to the visitor's bullpen in right field after the third inning.
A when he did, a video tribute was shown on the scoreboard and the crowd saluted him with an ovation.
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"Jim Buchanan" was Kelly's alter-ego, a grizzled reporter character that Kelly occasionally surfaced to annoy his teammates, particularly in spring training.
Kelly came up big in the Sox' postseason run last fall, including five scoreless appearances against the Dodgers in the World Series. The Southern California native said he'll now be all business as he tries to get his former teammates out in key spots for L.A.
"To be able to come back, this is the team I played most of my career for," Kelly told reporters before the game. "It's been fun. It's great memories. Now we've both got to strap it on. We're both playing good baseball."
Much like his Red Sox career, it's been a season of ups and downs for Kelly, 31, who before his postseason heroics, was probably best known in Boston for taking on the Yankees in a bench-clearing brawl last April. The start of his Dodger career was disastrous with a 12.27 ERA after his first six appearances. Lately, he's been dominant. His ERA over his past 12 outings is 0.68.
"It's going to be fun to match up with them when I'm at my best," Kelly said. "Try not to let the emotions overwhelm me and go out there and just play the game of baseball."
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