Dave Roberts said he has made sure to communicate his confidence in Joe Kelly as the reliever has traversed rough terrain to begin his Dodgers career. He told Kelly he still believed in him despite his 9.82 ERA in his first 11 innings as a Dodger, despite allowing a run in seven of his 10 outings, despite his failures leading directly to three losses after signing a three-year, $25-million contract during the offseason.
But words only go so far, Roberts noted, so he demonstrated his trust in Kelly in the Dodgers’ 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. With the Dodgers nursing a two-run lead and Dylan Floro, the Dodgers’ best reliever this season, unavailable, Roberts summoned Kelly to pitch the eighth inning at Wrigley Field.
“We need him and to back that up and put him in leverage,” Roberts said, “I really hope that sends a message to him.”
Kelly had pitched the seventh inning Wednesday and surrendered a run with two outs that cost the Dodgers. On Thursday, he faced the meat of the Cubs’ order again. He retired Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo before Javier Baez abruptly shifted the momentum with a line drive off the right-field wall. But Baez’s slow start out of the batter’s box and Cody Bellinger’s strong throw limited Baez to a single.
That brought up Daniel Descalso as the tying run. Decalso fouled off the first pitch, an 88-mph changeup, before taking two balls to put himself in a favorable count, Roberts said. He then whiffed on a 97-mph fastball before fouling off another changeup. Kelly thought he had strike three on the next pitch, a 99-mph fastball over the outer half, but catcher Rocky Gale didn’t catch the ball cleanly and the count ran full.
What followed was a 97-mph fastball right down the middle, a challenge pitch that Decalso foul-tipped into Gale’s glove to end Kelly’s second clean full inning this season.
“I thought this was good as we’ve seen him so far,” Roberts said.
Bellinger keeps rolling
Cody Bellinger began Thursday leading the major leagues in batting average and slugging percentage, leading the National League in on-base percentage and ranking second in the majors in home runs. He added a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly Thursday. The fly produced his 31st run batted in, tying Christian Yelich for most in the majors.
The left-handed slugger has hit safely in 23 of 26 games and has reached base in 25 games. His double gave him 84 total bases, one shy of Chase Utley’s major league record for total bases before the start of May. Bellinger, 23, is batting .426 with a .500 on-base percentage and an .894 slugging percentage.
Urias fresh for Friday
As the Dodgers’ pitching staff is currently constructed, Julio Urias is a reliever for the foreseeable future. The left-hander made his relief debut in Tuesday’s loss, tossing two scoreless innings after making four starts. He’ll be available again to pitch Friday, after a three-day break.
“If he doesn’t pitch -- there’s nothing that says he has to pitch [Friday] -- then he’ll be available for a little bit longer length the next day,” Roberts said. “It goes like that.
Roberts has repeated that Urias’ role is fluid. He will pitch multiple innings at a time, but not on back-to-back days -- for now, at least -- because the Dodgers want to limit the stress on his shoulder, which was surgically repaired less than two years ago. When asked if the Dodgers had considered using Urias as an opener to give him a clean slate, Roberts said they hadn’t.