(BaseballStL) — Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller have competed with each other for most of their careers. Whether it was in the weight room or with a video game controller in their hands, the two have a long history of battling for supremacy over one another.
It’s the type of rivalry born in a close friendship, and bolstered over time.
“[We were] roommates through the years and in the minor leagues. Played together at pretty much every level,” Miller said Tuesday. “He’s always been one of my roommates. I’ve spent more time with him and with these guys- more than you really do with anybody else through the years. Spring training, 162 games, you’re around each other all the time.”
“We're best friends,” Kelly said. “You have a best friend and you talk to them. We help each other out. He's just like a brother.”
The locker next to Miller’s, once filled by the best man at his wedding, now belongs to John Lackey. Kelly and Allen Craig were shipped to Boston in exchange for the 35-year-old, and the deal set up an improbable matchup.
“Obviously me and Joe compete at a lot of things and tomorrow will be another thing,” Miller said. The two will start opposite each other Wednesday, as Boston happened to fill the first home schedule slot following the trade deadline.
“This will be the first time I ever hit off him and he hits off me,” Kelly said. “Obviously you want to get everyone out, but I want to get a hit.”
The two never discussed the possibility of facing each other like this, and with such a sudden departure and reappearance, the emotional impact will unavoidable.
“Just try to keep emotions out of it,” Kelly said. “You don't want to get too amped and you don't want to be complacent. Try to find a happy medium that usually leads to success.”
Mike Matheny expects Kelly’s best against his former team, saying high-intensity situations- even those in August- are the 26-year-old’s speciality.
“I know he’s going to be ready to compete,” the Cardinal skipper said. “This guy to me is just an athlete and a competitor. We’ve all seen that. In big situations he pitches well.”
Of his own starter, Matheny said he expects Miller will have some conversations with fellow pitchers for advice, but will be ready when the time comes.
“He’s been at this long enough he understands. He’s a pro, he’s gotta be,” he said. “You’re going to have some extra distractions that can be out there if you allow them, but right now we have to win every game regardless of who is pitching against us.”
Kelly adopted a similar attitude, saying it’s his first start for Boston, and it doesn’t matter who it’s against. To get himself used to his new home, the California native went to a game at Fenway and sat in the stands, enjoying a Yankees Red Sox game in total anonymity.
“I just went as a fan. I just wanted to catch a game and see how it was,” He said. “I heard people talking smack and just sat and wanted to enjoy my time as a fan.”
That’s not to say he won’t enjoy his time as a player. Even though he and Miller are eyeing their first career matchup with seriousness, best friends never pass up a little competition.
“He came up to me while I was taking [batting practice] and said if he gets a hit off me I owe him 100 bucks,” Miller said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”
When asked if the two would see each other outside of a baseball stadium, Miller joked he had a plan in mind.
“We’ll probably go out tonight and go partying,” he smiled. “I’m going to invite him over and keep him up. See how long we can play video games for into the morning. See how long he can last.”