BOSTON -- The flirtation with a no-hitter was Joe Kelly's second favorite thing about his return to the mound on Saturday. What made this a truly special day for Kelly was the sustained power he felt in his right arm throughout a 9-1 victory over the Indians.
It was confirmation that Kelly's hard work with the trainers in strengthening his right shoulder paid off in a big way.
"Overall command of the fastball was very big today," said Kelly. "I was throwing it to both sides of the plate. I just felt super strong out there. All the work we've been putting in since I went on the DL of getting the shoulder stronger in the training room, it's just good to go out there and not even think about it and get a little more extension on the fastball and all the other pitches with that strong shoulder."
For the record, Kelly had a no-hitter for 6 2/3 innings until Juan Uribe spoiled it with a double into the gap in right-center. It should also be noted that Kelly was coming out of the game after seven innings regardless.
The pitch to Uribe was Kelly's 104th of the day -- 12 more than he had thrown in his final Minor League rehab start five days ago.
"No, he was going to be done after the seventh," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "You got to put a personal accomplishment -- he came back to us not because of a sprained ankle, it was a shoulder injury. So you got to take that certainly into account."
In Kelly's return to action, he looked much more like the pitcher who was red-hot last August and into early September than the one who labored through his first three starts of this season before going on the disabled list with a right shoulder impingement.
It was Kelly's shoulder that also ended his season three weeks early last season. But Saturday served as proof to Kelly that he has finally built a foundation to keep him healthy and thriving. His most recent DL stint was a learning experience.
"I didn't know that there was ever a problem," said Kelly. "I thought my shoulder felt strong and could get weak, just like every other pitcher. But to keep that strength on, with all those little muscles, it's definitely going to play a big part of staying healthy, for one, and the fastball felt better, and the command felt better because I was able to extend a little more in my delivery."
Even as he warmed up on Saturday, Kelly sensed he was going to have a big day. His stuff -- save for a laborious fifth inning in which he walked three and threw 30 pitches -- was noticeably crisp.
"He pitched a beautiful ballgame for us," said Farrell. "He was powerful, under control and had good command of his fastball. He threw enough secondary pitches to keep some people off stride with, I thought, a sharp-breaking curveball. Just a great day by Joe today."
The electricity at Fenway built as the day wore on. Dustin Pedroia made a brilliant stab at second base to take a hit away from Jason Kipnis in the fourth. Kelly helped himself out by fielding a slow roller and firing home to Ryan Hanigan, who made a nice lunge to force the final out at the plate in the fifth.
Out came Farrell to signal for the bullpen. Up came the fans, who gave Kelly a thunderous ovation.
"It was great," said Kelly. "We have the best fans in baseball, obviously. We sell out every game. And to get a standing ovation like that, first time coming back on the mound, it definitely felt good and it was good to see."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.