Big League Stew

Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly will prepare for his World Series start by playing ‘Call of Duty’

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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ST. LOUIS — Like many 25-year-olds, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly likes to spend his free time playing video games. Unlike many 25-year-olds, Joe Kelly will start Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday.

What's the night before his first World Series start going to be like? Studying his past starts? Getting a good night's sleep? Visualizing himself facing off with David Ortiz? Naw, he's going to spend the night playing video games online.

"I'm more of a first-person shooter guy," Kelly said Friday afternoon, after the Cardinals' workout.

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"To tell you the truth, I don't really like to lock in and focus on my start until the day of," Kelly said. "Like the night before, I usually stay up playing video games all night, competitive gaming, more 'Call of Duty.' But like you said, you don't want to put too much emphasis and just mentally drain yourself of thinking, man, this is a huge start, and you have to go out there and perform."

Kelly's an interesting cat. He's the joker who interviewed Nelly in an old-man mask. He's 6-foot-1, but can dunk a basketball from a standing position. Kelly's the player who drinks the Gatorade left at the table during postseason press conferences. Usually it's just a prop. ("Nobody ever drinks these," he said, opening one up Friday). One more thing: He invites random fans to play "Call of Duty" with him.

Much has been made this postseason about the Cardinals are stuffy and traditional. Yes, Adam Wainwright pours over his game footage. But he sings karaoke too. Kelly, meanwhile, happens to clear his mind by shooting people up as a simulated special ops trooper. Hey, at least, like pitching, that requires precision.

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[Related: Chris Carpenter still a big part of Cardinals' success]

"[It] just relaxes me," Kelly said. "It helps me not to think about anything else except for going out and competing. And I like to play competitive gaming, so actual matches and play with other professional players that I've met off Twitter and stuff like it that.

"It's dating back to all the way since the original 'Halo' ... It's another way that I can get out there and just relax and compete at a different level. It's just something that I've been doing for a while and it's fun for me."

Kelly hasn't been the most celebrated of the Cardinals young arms. He doesn't have a milkshake named after him like Michael Wacha. But he was 9-2 in the second half with a 1.81 ERA. He's in the second big-league season and the Cardinals will be calling on him for the fourth time in these playoffs when he takes the mound Friday. He's 0-1 in the postseason with a 4.41 ERA.

"Joe Kelly has found a place here," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's a funny guy. He enjoys life. He's all the time doing some things you wouldn't expect him to do. But when it comes down to pitching, he's ready to compete. He's a competitor."

"Yeah," Kelly said. "Game day comes around, I'm definitely going to be locked in and ready to go."

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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