Responsibility To Dodgers Teammates Prevented Joe Kelly From Opting Out Of 2020 Season
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

With Major League Baseball looking to navigate their way through a 60-game season during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has provided players with an opportunity to opt out if they are concerned with playing.

Those who who are designated as high-risk by a team doctor have the option to sit out the 2020 season and still receive service time and salary. However, those who don’t face such circumstances and simply decide to opt out, won’t be credited for service time or receive pay.

With teams due to begin submitting their lists for respective 60-man player pools, decisions may soon come to light as has been the case with the NBA over the past week-plus.

The possibility of sitting out was something Joe Kelly mulled and would be OK with if not for feeling a sense a commitment to join his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates, via “The Bradfo Sho“:

“I’ve thought about it. My wife has joked about it, but I know she was dead-ass serious. ‘Don’t even play.’ The only reason I would play is my teammates. I feel morally right all the way up until that point until someone on my team is like, ‘Bro, I’m playing, just play. You need to play. Honor your contract. Play. We’re trying to win.’ That’s the only thing that would hold me back. Everything else, I would be fine with not playing. You know what I mean?

“It’s the same situation I was in during eighth grade. I quit baseball. I wasn’t going to play baseball in high school. Out. Played too much, worn out. The coach wore me out. Played six days a week. I skateboarded every day. I broke my arm pitching, and that’s why I stopped pitching. I fractured the growth plate in my right elbow. Pitched every tournament, anything, you name it. Played with Hank Conger, all the big leaguers at that age — 12, 13. Eighth grade I shut it down, played football and said, ‘I’m done with baseball.’ Got to high school and my friends were the ones that said, ‘Hey, Play baseball.’ So I was like, ‘Dad, I’m out. I quit. I’m done.’ He was like, ‘OK, perfect.’ I said, ‘I’m playing football,’ and he loved it because he was a football guy. He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.’

“So when I got to high school I got convinced by my friends to play baseball again. It’s kind of weird how it comes full circle. That’s the part I’m in right now. I would be fine saying, ‘I’m not playing this year. I’m not risking it.’ You’ve got twins, got a 4-year-old. Who knows what the coronavirus entails in 50 years, what it will do to you. No one knows. So, yeah, I could easily have been like, ‘I’m doing what’s right for my family.’ And then I would get a text from D.P. or Mookie or any one of my teammates, any one of my fellow pitchers, any one of my fellow hitters, and then I would feel bad. That’s the [expletive] part about it. That was the only thing I probably couldn’t live with.”

Kelly’s sentiment largely stems from his wife recently giving birth to twins, and the couple also having a 4-year-old son.

Kelly deciding to move forward with playing is a key decision as he figures to play a significant role in their bullpen. His importance is further magnified by starting pitchers only having three weeks of Spring Training 2.0.

Andrew Friedman, Dave Roberts would support players sitting out

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts both said they want players, coaches and all staff personnel to feel completely comfortable with being part of the season.

“Honestly, this is something none of us have ever experienced. Andrew and I collectively haven’t talked to every player on the roster yet,” Roberts said. “We plan on getting on a Zoom call with these guys in the next couple days and I could get more information individually from them.

“I think it’s a day-to-day thing. Things are going to come up, people might be affected more than others, so it’s just conversations that we’ve got to take day by day.”

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