There was a time Joe Kelly recalls when he wanted to dazzle the radar gun.

During a pre-draft workout with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the lithe college closer didn’t trouble himself with such trivial things as mechanics and control in order to show how much heat he had in his right arm. He hit 99 to 101 mph, he said.

“That’s when I was fresh and let it eat and didn’t care where the ball was going,” Kelly said. “Just violent. Really violent. Just throw it as hard as I can. I don’t like doing that. It turns into homers and missed sports and walks and hit batters.”

But controlled velocity is in there.

And given the need he can access it.

After a spring training spent trying to win a starting job as a sinkerballer and an early-April spent idling in the bullpen waiting for long relief assignments that never came, Kelly got a chance to uncork his fastball Wednesday.

And by doing so he continued to carve out a role in the Cardinals’ evolving bullpen. Kelly saved Jaime Garcia from trouble in the sixth inning and pitched 12/3 scoreless in relief during the Cardinals’ 4-2 victory against Washington.

Kelly struck out Ian Desmond with the tying run on base. He tested Desmond with a 98-mph fastball and got him swinging at a tight, 84-mph slider.

It was the kind of let-it-fly velocity that Kelly didn’t unleash in the roles that required him to work multiple innings.

“I saw 99,” Matheny said. “He’s got that in the tank. We have a pretty good weapon who has been sitting down there. Hats off to him about the mental side of being prepared when the opportunity came. The opportunity showed up and he’s answered.”