St. Louis Cardinals

August 5, 2014

'Leaving people behind': Craig, Kelly find it strange to return as ex-Cards

A unique set of circumstances landed right fielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly back in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Just five days after being traded to Boston for pitcher John Lackey, Craig and Kelly returned to Busch Stadium as former Cardinals.

"It's definitely a little strange," the injured Craig said of being in the visitor's clubhouse. "Obviously, I spent a good number of years going to the other side, but it's kind of cool to be over here and see the other side of it and get to experience that."

Kelly did his talking from the field, where at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday he will be on the mound against best friend Shelby Miller.

"I wouldn't say there's one weird part (about being here)," Kelly said. "But it was good to come and sleep in my own bed. I didn't have to really pack too much stuff. I'll be able to do that the last day here; just get clothes and stuff ready for the rest of the year."

The shock, and the hurt, of being traded was still evident as both players were bombarded with questions before the game.

Moments after the trade, which was consummated in San Diego, Kelly talked to the media with tear-soaked eyes. Craig, meanwhile, couldn't find the strength to deal with his emotions.

"The business of baseball of baseball sometimes takes you in directions you weren't exactly expecting," Craig said. "But that's part of the game. I think that was the toughest part --leaving people behind --because that's what it's about: relationships and people."

Craig understands why he was traded. The right fielder and first baseman, a .291 career hitter known for delivering big hits, was batting .244 with seven home and 44 RBIs in 97 games.

"It's about producing," Craig said. "But I had developed some really close relationships with guys coming up through the organization. I played a lot of ball with these guys. To see that ending is a little sad, but I'm really looking forward to this opportunity I have here. It's going to be great.

"I'm still wrapping my head around it a little bit, but when I sit back and think about where I'm at now, this is going to be a great place, too. Boston has a great fan base and a very rich tradition of baseball. I'm excited to be a part of it now."

Kelly hasn't yet reached that point.

"I don't know about (the trade) sinking in," he said. "Every other day, I feel like I get a question about it, so until those questions stop coming ... It's good to have Al (with me). I'm glad he's here. It's definitely good to have another person come with you and make it a little easier."

Craig said he had no hint that his name was being discussed in trade talks, so the trade came as a total surprise.

Craig and Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak had a conversation Tuesday and all appears to be well between the two.

"I think everything is good," Craig said. "I'm grateful to this organization for giving me a chance to play in the big leagues."

Craig signed a five-year, $31 million contract extension March 13, 2013, and hoped he would be a Cardinal for his career.

"I wanted to secure my family, and that's not something I ever think twice about," Craig said. "I developed amazing relationships with the Cardinals and I planned on being there for longer. But as I sit here today, it is what it is. It just didn't work out. Boston wanted me and I'm happy to be here."

Craig's time with the Red Sox hasn't started out well. In his first game Friday against the New York Yankees, he injured his left ankle running over first base. Boston placed him on the disabled list Tuesday, reducing his role to that of a spectator.

"It's disappointing," Craig said. "I want to get out there and play ball. That's what I do; that's what I'm good at. On the other side of it, I've got to be smart and get myself right."

It's the same foot that sidelined Craig for the final month of the regular season and most of the postseason last year.

"I'll never use an injury as an excuse," Craig said. "I can honestly say I felt good and healthy this year. It's a combination of a lot of things. I don't know if it's my place to really nail it down and put my finger on it. Baseball's a tough game. I've been pretty good for most of my career. I struggled a little bit this year, and I'm accountable for that. I'm looking forward to moving on."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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