Before their series-opening Memorial Day win against the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers made some mildly surprising roster moves.
The most notable transaction came when the team promoted catcher Will Smith, their No. 5 prospect, to take the place of an injured Austin Barnes. However, the Dodgers also activated Joe Kelly off the bereavement list and demoted Caleb Ferguson to Triple-A Oklahoma City in order to clear roster space for the right-hander.
Both Kelly and Ferguson have struggled mightily in 2019. Kelly signed a three-year, $25 million contract before the season, fresh off a dominant postseason run out of the Boston Red Sox bullpen.
But his disappointing time with the Dodgers continued Monday when he failed to record an out against the Mets, instead giving up a two-run home run to Adeiny Hechavarria. Kenley Jansen eventually had to record his first five-out save of the season to preserve the Dodgers’ win.
Ferguson, meanwhile, entered the sixth inning of Sunday’s series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates with the Dodgers holding a comfortable 10-4 lead. He promptly gave up three runs, eventually getting out of the inning but raising his ERA to 5.94 on the season.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts defended Ferguson, though, explaining demotion was not based on Ferguson’s recent performance and that the left-hander will likely be back with the club in the near future, per MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick:
“It wasn’t a reaction to [Sunday’s] outing,” Roberts said. “I thought he threw the ball decent. Caleb’s a guy we need going forward, and I expect it to be a brief stint in OKC.”
Ferguson made his MLB debut in 2018 and went go on to log a solid 3.49 ERA for the Dodgers over 49 innings in the regular season. He then threw six scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the postseason, four of which came during the Dodgers’ thrilling seven-game National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Kelly currently sports an 8.83 ERA and saw his role diminish greatly almost immediately as Roberts turned to more reliable relievers. Unlike with Ferguson and some others in the bullpen, Kelly can no longer be optioned to the Minors.
Both will be fighting for spots on what looks to be another loaded postseason roster as the Dodgers have already emerged as early favorites to claim their third straight NL pennant. Having either Kelly or Ferguson — or both — return to form would go a long way towards making that goal a reality for Los Angeles.