Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly hasn’t yet pitched for the Dodgers this season, and while he’s technically on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, the team has been quite vague whenever talking about specifics.
Things became more clear on Friday in an interview with WEEI radio in Boston, when Kelly said he had “fairly significant” right shoulder surgery on November 10, performed by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Kelly explained the timeline:
“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.
After returning from his five-game suspension last year, Kelly pitched in five games during the final two weeks of the regular season, then pitched five more times in the postseason, including a tightrope save in Game 2 of the NLDS and pitching in the first two games of the World Series.
In those 10 games, Kelly had a 3.68 ERA in 7⅓ innings, with seven strikeouts — a 21.9-percent strikeout rate — and four walks.
“I ended up pitching in the World Series topping out at 95 mph, not knowing where it was going because had these cysts on my nerve,” Kelly told WEEI. “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.”
Dave Roberts on Friday said the team kept his surgery quiet at the request of Kelly, who didn’t want it to be seen as an excuse for his performance.
“We weren’t too concerned about the short term or the long term,” Roberts said. “If there was something more impactful or serious, we would have obviously released it. But this was more of us adhering to his wishes.”
Roberts on Thursday said the earliest he exepcted Kelly to return would be the series against the Angels in Anaheim next weekend, but more likely he would be activated on the next homestand, which starts May 11.
The timeline was mostly similar on Friday, though Roberts noted that Kelly has thrown on back-to-back days at Camelback Ranch, and will next pitch an inning on Sunday.
“The command, the velocity, the breaking ball, the changeup, all that is there. The soreness after the outings is dissipating, so he’s bouncing back,” Roberts said. “Hopefully the second week of May, we’d love to have him back.”