KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Joe Kelly remembered his last game appearance, when there was a lot more had stake.
Pitching for the first time since the NL championship series, Kelly opened his bid for a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation with two hitless innings in Friday's 8-8 tie against the Houston Astros.
"There were no people calling me names out there today," Kelly said. "Warming up today in the bullpen, we had Cardinal fans down there, cheering you on, instead of people using derogatory terms and just screaming out hate and blasphemy towards you."
Among three candidates to replace the injured Chris Carpenter in the Cardinals' rotation, Kelly walked one hitter in each inning. He's competing with Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal, and was the last of the three to pitch in an exhibition game.
"For the past three days I've been reminded by everyone in the clubhouse: 'Are you ever going to pitch?'" Kelly said. "I think it made me even more anxious to get out here. I'm one of the last guys to even throw, but it was good to get out there.
"I'm not too happy about my walks. I felt maybe a tad rusty, but I went out there and got my ground balls. That's part of my game and that's what I try to do."
Kelly, a 24-year-old right-hander, was 5-7 with a 3.53 in 16 starts and eight relief appearances as a rookie last year.
"Everyone, of course, wants to start in the big leagues," he said. "That's ultimately what my goal is to do, so I guess that's my preference. I'm happy I'm even given a chance to get that role."
Adron Chambers, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma had two hits and drove in two runs each for the Cardinals, who have won five straight.