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Joe Kelly has rough 2021 debut vs. Angels

Dodgers RHP says he feels “500 percent better” after shoulder surgery

Los Angeles Angels defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-2 during a baseball game. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG

Joe Kelly was activated from the injured list on Thursday, and on Friday made his 2021 debut in a very low-leverage situation, with the Dodgers already trailing by four runs in the sixth inning. It was a rough outing for Kelly, who couldn’t complete his frame and allowed four runs.

Five of the seven batters Kelly faced got hits, including doubles by José Rojas, David Fletcher, and Shohei Ohtani, and a triple by Mike Trout. Kelly is just the second Dodgers reliever ever to allow four extra-base hits in an appearance without completing an inning, joining Chin-hui Tsao in 2015.

But perhaps more importantly, Kelly is feeling healthy after surgery in November to remove cysts from his right shoulder. He started feeling pain in August, but opted to pitch through it through the postseason, which at times required more down time between appearances.

“I was going to wait until after the season, just using grit and, you know, bit down and not be a little baby,” Kelly said Friday. “It wasn’t fun. There were times I would go three days without picking up a baseball, but when they called my name, I’d be ready to pitch.”

Once Kelly returned from the injured list and his five-game suspension in September, he had a 4.91 ERA with seven strikeouts and four walks in 7⅓ innings, including the postseason, during which he got the save in Game 2 of the NLDS against San Diego.

He said the best-case scenario while rehabbing his arm during spring training was that he would be ready two weeks into the season, but that got extended because of some soreness and scar tissue healing in his shoulder.

Kelly said he was more affected in daily activities, sometimes not able to reach his right arm up, or lift his arm to brush his teeth last year.

“Overall, I’m 500 percent better with everyday activity, with no pain, no grinding,” Kelly said. “Now the exciting part is to just go and throw.”

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