2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Player Reviews: Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly, 2021 NLCS
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

Joe Kelly’s third season with the Los Angeles Dodgers was delayed as an unspecified injury prevented him from facing batters and pitching in a Cactus League game during Spring Training.

He was placed on the 10-day injured list to begin the year, but with little-to-no information known about his ailment. Kelly later disclosed to a Boston radio station that he underwent offseason surgery to remove a cyst from his right shoulder.

The right-hander chose to keep the operation under wraps because he didn’t want to use the injury as an excuse for his inconsistencies late in the 2020 season.

“I think it could’ve been perceived that he didn’t pitch well and inconsistencies were because of the cyst,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at the time.

“Came into Spring Training good, he went back-to-back a few days ago, a couple days’ rest, he’ll pitch on Sunday. If it was something more impactful or serious, it would’ve been released. It’s more of us adhering to his wishes.”

After missing the first five weeks of play, Kelly was activated on May 6. He made his season debut the following day against the L.A. Angels and allowed four runs on five hits in 0.2 innings pitched.

Kelly posted a 9.00 ERA in eight appearances during the month of May before bouncing back with a stellar 0.82 ERA in June. The 33-year-old continued pitching well in July as he gave up only three runs (two earned) over 10 innings of work.

Kelly made just five appearances in August due to a two-week stint on the COVID-related IL. He nevertheless closed out the year strong by posting a 0.75 ERA and 0.67 WHIP over his final 14 appearances.

All-in-all, Kelly went 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA, 3.08 FIP and 0.98 WHIP in 44 innings pitched across 48 games last season. He logged an additional 5.1 innings across seven postseason appearances before sustaining a season-ending right biceps strain in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

The expectation is that Kelly will make a full recovery by the start of the 2022 season.

Kelly’s 2021 highlight

Kelly pitched his best baseball in the final month of the regular season as he tossed scoreless outings in 13 of his 14 appearances.

2022 outlook

The Dodgers declined their $12 million team option on Kelly for the 2022 season and instead opted to pay him a $4 million buyout.

In doing so, Kelly became a free agent for the first time since 2018. Despite having reached the open market, L.A. is expected to be in the mix to re-sign him.

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