PHOENIX -- A key piece to the Nationals bullpen is making encouraging steps forward on his way to returning from the disabled list. Shawn Kelley threw a bullpen session Friday afternoon in Arizona, his second since suffering a setback while rehabbing his strained right trapezius muscle.Kelley threw about 30 pitches
PHOENIX -- A key piece to the Nationals bullpen is making encouraging steps forward on his way to returning from the disabled list. Shawn Kelley threw a bullpen session Friday afternoon in Arizona, his second since suffering a setback while rehabbing his strained right trapezius muscle.
Kelley threw about 30 pitches without pain and said he finally feels 100 percent.
"Throwing that bullpen, even without having the adrenaline of throwing in a real game, everything was crisp," Kelley said. "I think after today I feel like a human being again."
Kelley is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Sunday and, if he clears that hurdle, will throw a simulated game next week in Washington.
The Nationals hope Kelley returns near his form from 2016, when he posted a 2.64 ERA with 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings. He has not been able to recapture that form during his 22 games this season, in which he has a 7.00 ERA, with a 2.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while surrendering 4.5 home runs per nine innings. He was one of the candidates at the start of the season as closer for the Nationals, but could not regularly secure outs in high-leverage situations or stay off the DL.
"The last few outings leading up to when I went back on the DL I knew something just wasn't feeling right," he said. "Things weren't as sharp, and my command wasn't as good. Velocity was down, slider was spinning a little more than I wanted it to."
The bullpen he'll return to will look a bit different, after the team added left-hander Sean Doolittle and right-hander Ryan Madson in a trade with the A's on Sunday. If Kelley can work out his struggles, he still figures to factor into the late innings as well.
"I'm super happy we got two guys like that that have experience at the back end to help us out," he said. "And maybe we'll get more, I don't know. It just makes us all the more better."
• Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor was not able to begin baseball activities this week, since he still felt pain when he tried to test his strained right oblique.
"We just got to wait for his body to heal, they're doing everything they can," manager Dusty Baker said. "We were hoping that we caught it before it got too bad, but whenever they try to ramp up his workload then he feels it again."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.