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Dodgers activate Joe Kelly off injured list, option Victor González to Triple-A

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RHP missed 13 games on the injured list

MLB: AUG 04 Astros at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dodgers activated reliever Joe Kelly from the injured list on Wednesday after the right-hander missed 13 games.

Kelly was on the COVID-19-related injured list, which meant he didn’t count against the 40-man roster while sidelined. The Dodgers made room on Tuesday when pitcher Neftalí Féliz was designated for assignment.

Dodgers-Padres lineups

Pos Dodgers Pos Padres
Pos Dodgers Pos Padres
2B Turner CF Grisham (L)
1B Muncy (L) RF Tatis Jr.
3B Turner 3B Machado
LF Pollock SS Cronenworth (L)
SS Seager (L) C Nola
RF Taylor 1B Hosmer (L)
C Smith LF Myers
CF Bellinger (L) 2B Frazier (L)
P Buehler P Snell (L)

This has been the most effective of Kelly’s three seasons with the Dodgers, putting up a 3.34 ERA and 3.24 FIP in 31 games, with 35 strikeouts and eight walks in 29⅔ innings. His 28-percent strikeout rate and 6.4-percent walk rate are both the best of his career.

Kelly is one of seven Dodgers pitchers to record a save this season.

He pitched two games on a minor league rehab assignment with Low-A Rancho Cucamonga. After walking two and striking out one in a three-batter outing as an opener on Friday night, a game that Dave Roberts called “rusty,” Kelly pitched a perfect inning of relief on Sunday, striking out one.

To make room on the active roster, the Dodgers optioned Victor González to Triple-A Oklahoma City in a bit of a surprise move.

“Tough decision, obviously, with what Victor means to us,” Roberts said Wednesday. “Looking for consistency with the fastball and slider. He hasn’t had the miss that he had last year. For the most part, just getting him to Triple-A, take a breath, and pitch consistently for a week to two weeks, and see where we’re at from there.”

After optioned pitchers Andre Jackson and Mitch White pitched for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga because of a COVID-19 outbreak with Oklahoma City, Roberts said González would join the Dodgers’ Triple-A team, which begins a series at home on Thursday against Las Vegas.

González has a 3.57 ERA and 4.28 FIP in 44 games in his second season, with 33 strikeouts and 19 walks in 35⅓ innings. Since missing two weeks on the injured list with right knee inflammation, González has pitched 2⅓ scoreless innings in two games, with one strikeout.

But his numbers are down from his excellent rookie campaign, during which he was one of the Dodgers’ most trusted relievers.

Victor González season by season

Year IP ERA xERA FIP HR BB% K%
Year IP ERA xERA FIP HR BB% K%
2020 20.3 1.33 2.06 1.67 0 2.5% 28.8%
2021 35.3 3.57 4.56 4.28 3 12.3% 21.3%

González has still been used in key situations this year. On the season, his average leverage index (which measures the pressure faced by a relief pitcher when entering a game) is fourth in the bullpen, behind only Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, and Corey Knebel.

Alex Vesia has since passed González on the lefty leverage reliever depth chart, but what made this move somewhat surprising is that the Dodgers kept rookie Justin Bruihl as the second southpaw in the bullpen, who’s been in the majors less than three weeks.

Bruihl, who made his major league debut on August 8, pitched in seven of the Dodgers’ 15 games since joining the team, posting a 2.45 ERA and 3.44 FIP in 7⅓ innings, with three unintentional walks and five strikeouts. Left-handed batters are 3-for-16 (.188/.278/.188) against Bruihl, with three strikeouts and two walks.