When the Los Angeles Dodgers reported to Camelback Ranch for the start of Spring Training, Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly were identified as immediately being behind other pitchers in camp.
As days without either doing much throwing became weeks, it grew apparent Graterol and Kelly would not appear in a Cactus League game this year. Graterol’s slowed progression was attributed to not having a normal offseason throwing program, and Kelly was said to be experiencing some right shoulder trouble.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts remained vague whenever discussing Kelly’s ailment, and the 32-year-old never addressed the matter himself. Kelly was placed on the 10-day injured list due to right shoulder inflammation when the season began.
“We found some cysts,” Kelly explained. “My shoulder hasn’t been good since the end of 2019. But during my suspension after the thing with the Astros (early August) my arm was super weak. If I was laying on a table I couldn’t lift my arm past gravity. They asked me how long it was going on for and I told them forever. I couldn’t sleep at night and it felt like fire ants were eating my arm from the inside-out.”
So during his eight-game suspension, the Dodgers set up an MRI for Kelly. It turned out a “massive” cyst was growing on Kelly’s nerve, allowing him to pitch with 50 percent of the muscles in his shoulder.
“They ended up putting metal clamps on my labrum and then they decompressed all the cysts. They sucked out some loose bodies from my rotator cuff. So it was a good little surgery.”
Kelly requiring surgery to address a significant issue in his throwing shoulder would certainly help explain the uneven results since signing a three-year, $25 million contract with the Dodgers after helping the Boston Red Sox win the 2018 World Series.
Kelly spent time on the IL last year because of the all-encompassing right shoulder inflammation, and he also served a five-game suspension, which allowed for just 12 appearances in the shortened season. Kelly then appeared in five postseason games.
Kelly’s high-wire act
One of Kelly’s five appearances in the playoffs last year came against the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the National League Division Series and was a microcosm of his time with the Dodgers. Kenley Jansen had allowed two runs and was removed with two outs in the ninth.
Kelly walked the first two batters faced to load the bases before retiring Eric Hosmer to seal the 6-5 win. “Never a doubt. Never a doubt. We had it in our hands. That’s how Joe Kelly rolls,” Clayton Kershaw quipped after the game.
“Joe likes to make it interesting for us. That was a huge win, obviously. We’re in a good spot now going into tomorrow.”
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