Under Price's guidance, Kelly eyes key role

With Báez, Jansen absent, reliever to pitch important innings

July 11th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- Joe Kelly pitched a clean inning with two strikeouts in an intrasquad game on Thursday night, but he seemed even more pleased by the feedback he received after -- particularly given the source it came from.

David Price, Kelly's teammate in Boston and again in Los Angeles, isn’t with the Dodgers in body after electing not to play this season. But Kelly spoke glowingly about the way Price has remained connected, providing a glimpse at how teammate relationships survive and thrive despite the challenges of this season like no other.

“We make him feel like he’s part of the team still,” Kelly said. “He watches all the games. He texted us. He talked about the changeup I threw to Justin Turner last night on the team thread. He’s still part of our team. Just because he isn’t here, he’s still engaging, rooting, supporting, talking baseball.

“That’s one of the cool things about David Price. It would be easy for someone who opts out to, honestly, kind of isolate themselves. But DP is a guy who obviously opted out, but he cares so much about the people that he would text the next day. He’s a good human being.”

Kelly is a father of three, including 3-month-old twins. Like Price, Kelly considered his options before reporting to Summer Camp, but he said he “wasn’t anywhere close to being serious about not reporting.

“It’s something that’s probably gone through most guy’s heads, honestly,” Kelly said. “David is one of my best friends. It was the right decision for him. I’m sure people understand what players are going through.”

With Opening Day against the Giants just 13 days away, the Dodgers not only are pleased that Kelly is in camp, but also excited that his form Thursday night resembled his Spring Training dominance, with none of the physical ailments that diminished his performance late last season.

With Kenley Jansen and Pedro Báez still out of Summer Camp for undisclosed reasons, Kelly should have a prominent late-innings role immediately in the 60-game sprint. From his brief mound appearances at Dodger Stadium this week and the way he sounded on Friday, he seems ready.

Kelly visited the Driveline analytics complex near Seattle over the winter to get a better understanding of the linkage between the velocity his spindly frame generates and the physical discomfort he experienced. One discovery was that Kelly was releasing his fastball with nearly all the force on only his middle finger with the effect of a cutter. Kelly said he was keeping his index finger on the ball in the intrasquad game, providing the two-finger leverage on the four-seamer that he’s looking for.

“During the time of the quarantine, my schedule was a little different,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t throwing to hitters or going to a gym working out. I was in the garage with a couple dumb bells and 95% was throwing into a net until I got here.

“It was truly a blessing for the fact that I knew what I need to do because my index finger was coming off the heater. For me to work on that on my own, that’s what I worked on. To test it out here against our hitters is something that is good feedback and my body feels healthy. What I take away is that I’m going to be comfortable going into the season, even though I might not be prepared with innings like some of the guys.”