ANAHEIM -- When he got suspended after the incident with the Astros last season, Dodgers right-hander Joe Kelly saw it as the perfect time to check out why he was battling excruciating pain in his right shoulder.
The shoulder would bother Kelly when he pitched, but it mostly hurt him when he washed his hair, put on a backpack and when he slept on his back. He compared the pain to having fire ants invading his shoulder.
After he got the tests done, it was quickly revealed that Kelly had major cysts on his shoulder, which is why he had the burning sensation and why he couldn’t elevate his arm on certain days. Kelly battled through the pain and pitched the remainder of the season, though he wasn’t used much during the World Series as his velocity began to dip.
In November, Kelly finally underwent surgery and felt “instant relief.” The right-hander was sidelined for most of Spring Training with the undisclosed shoulder injury. On Thursday, the Dodgers activated him from the 10-day injured list and placed left-hander Scott Alexander on the 10-day IL with left shoulder inflammation.
“The buildup has honestly been maybe just a little bit slower than we expected,” Kelly said. “Throughout Spring Training, I was expected to get off the mound a little bit sooner, but you obviously never know how recovery is going to be. … Now [I’m] back to being a normal baseball player.”
The string of injuries have forced the Dodgers to plug in inexperienced relievers such as
Garrett Cleavinger, Edwin Uceta and Mitch White in some tough late-inning situations. With Kelly, the Dodgers have another pitcher they can trust in the late innings to go along with Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen.
“Joe is a high-leverage guy,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “So I’m going to use him as such.”
Both Kelly and Roberts believe that following the surgery, Kelly could get close to the form that made him a key free-agent target after the 2018 season. Kelly believes his velocity will be closer to his career averages, as opposed to the 95 mph he was hovering around during the postseason.
“I’m excited to get out there and see where my stuff is,” Kelly said. “I think, for me not getting the reps of a full season [in 2020], my stuff is better than where it was last year, which is really good.”
• Price (right hamstring) and Gonsolin (right shoulder inflammation) continue to progress well from their injuries and appear to be getting closer to returning over the next few weeks. Roberts said Price threw a bullpen session on Friday, and while there’s still no definitive timetable, the Dodgers believe the left-hander could be back “sooner rather than later.”
Gonsolin will be built up as a starter to fill May’s spot in the rotation, which is why his rehab is taking a little bit longer. The Dodgers are hoping to build Gonsolin up to at least four innings and 60 pitches, but preferably he returns somewhere in the five-inning or 75-pitch range.
• Cody Bellinger (hairline fracture, left fibula) took another step forward in his rehab, running at “about 60 percent,” according to Roberts. Still, Bellinger is not close to returning from an injury that has kept him out since April 6.
• Zach McKinstry (right oblique) is also still not close to returning, but Roberts did say that the utility man was able to sneeze without feeling any pain, which is actually considered a big step when returning from a strained oblique. Because the oblique is a sensitive area, especially for a hitter, the Dodgers will continue to take it slow with McKinstry.
Honorary Bat Girl
Major League Baseball announced the 30 Honorary Bat Girls who will represent the support of the annual effort to courageous women that have battled breast cancer. Because the Dodgers are on the road on Sunday, they will designate an alternate date to recognize their honoree.
This year, Jessica Valdivia will be the Honorary Bat Girl for the Dodgers. Valdivia is a lifelong Dodger fan. So much, in fact, that her mom’s name is Jacquie Robinson.
Valdivia was first diagnosed with breast cancer just before Christmas 2016 and spent the first six months of '17 undergoing chemotherapy. Her husband was always by her side. And despite undergoing grueling treatments, Valdivia and her husband still managed to attend the Opening Day game in '17 against the Padres.
After beating cancer, the disease returned in 2019. She is still undergoing treatment, and she and her husband have since become foster parents.