Dodgers Dugout: Joe Kelly says ‘Hanley Ramirez probably should have gotten out of the way,’ talks pouty face

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly (17) gestures toward Houston Astros' Carlos Correa.
Joe Kelly shouts toward Houston’s Carlos Correa during the famous 2020 matchup.
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the season opener is three weeks from today.

In the last newsletter, I asked readers to submit questions for former Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly, who is now pitching for the Chicago White Sox. Kelly has a book out titled “A Damn Near Perfect Game” written by him and Rob Bradford, where he touches on topics such as the rules changes this season, how the game’s leaders do a poor job promoting the sport and how a player’s emotions, such as a bat flip, should be encouraged, not discouraged.

We received about 250 questions and I selected a few for Kelly, who answered them by email. A big thank you to him for taking time during a busy spring training to participate. As always, if multiple people asked the same question, I named the person who asked it first. And yes, he talks about the “pouty-face” incident with the Astros and hitting Hanley Ramirez with a pitch.

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Mauricio Heilbron Jr.: As a bookaholic and a Dodgers fan, I could not have been more excited about this book. What was the thing that made you say, “You know what? I need to write a book, and I need to write it now”? Also, where can I buy a signed copy?

Joe Kelly: The thing that made me say I needed to write a book was my co-author Rob Bradford. He said I needed to write it now, especially after the letter I published in the L.A. Times. It was a letter pretty much preaching to not give up on baseball. After that Rob made it clear that it was a great time to continue that conversation. As to where can you buy a signed copy? You could ask Rob Bradford and maybe we can get one to you.

Carl Prutch: What was going on in your mind on that famous day in Houston and how did the players in the dugout react when the inning was over?


Kelly: What was going on in my mind during that game was that I obviously was pissed. I really didn’t have control of the baseball. As the inning progressed, I got more and more irritated hearing comments from their dugout. So I felt the Astros were being whiny, and Carlos [Correa] himself was being whiny so I gave him a pouty face as I would do to all my kids if they were being whiny. All the Dodgers ended up having my back. If it wasn’t Covid times I’m sure something else would have been done. But obviously we were all infuriated by the Astros cheating scandal.

Mark Au of Kailua, Hawaii: Do you have any other professional goals you want to accomplish before you retire besides winning another World Series ring?

Kelly: Obviously, I want to get another World Series ring. Personally, I don’t really set that many goals professionally. I take the game day by day and enjoy the ride. The only other goal is that I have my fourth kid coming April 26, and I would like to play long enough where my last child would remember me playing. I would probably say four to five more years of playing max if I’m healthy. That would be a great goal, but obviously goals are goals and sometimes they aren’t achievable.

Michael Fonseca: What is your fondest memory with the Dodgers?

Kelly: My fondest memory with the Dodgers was obviously winning the World Series in the bubble during the pandemic. That was wild. It was a great experience. We bonded with everybody, families, teammates, front offices. We all lived in this hotel, and we were able to be one big Dodgers family for an entire month.

Paul Mihalow: Do you still wear your mariachi jacket?

Kelly: I don’t still wear the mariachi jacket. It’s in my closet. I do plan on wearing it on two occasions. The first occasion is obviously if we win the World Series; I will take it out of my closet and wear it to the White House. If I don’t win the World Series it will only be worn one more time in my lifetime until I die and that will be when my daughter gets married. I will wear the jacket for my father-daughter dance for her wedding.

David Goldstein of Chatsworth: Do you have any thoughts on the 2013 playoff series and the pitch “that got away” to Hanley Ramirez (breaking his rib), effectively ending the Dodgers’ chances?

Kelly: Yeah. Hanley Ramirez probably should have gotten out of the way or turned inside a little more. It was a fastball in and before the game we game planned to not let Hanley beat us. He’s not a very good inside fastball hitter. One slipped and obviously broke his rib and that will forever go down as the biggest pitch to turn the Cardinals season to move on. Obviously, it was an accident. But Hanley was the biggest person we tried to pitch away from contact. It was unfortunate it hit him, but it is what it is.

Jim Gravley: Do you believe the trend of pitchers trying to improve velocity is the reason for so many injuries, rather than just going with what nature gives?

Kelly: I don’t think trying to improve velocity is a reason for injuries. I think trying to improve physical numbers in terms of spin rate, trying to make your curveball better because of spin efficiency, I think that is the case for all these injuries. It’s not necessarily velocity. Learning all these new pitches guys have never thrown and aren’t natural for their arm actions. Now you can create a pitch and I think that has led to the injuries of pitchers.

Richard Gunkel: Of the teams, clubhouses, and players that you have played at or with: please tell us about your favorites!

Kelly: My favorites have been 2018 Red Sox, 2020 Dodgers and 2013 Cardinals. They were all winning teams, making it far in the playoffs. And the correlation for all of those is I would take a bullet for all those guys on those teams. That’s when you know you have a close-knit group of guys, where families and wives are all best friends. It’s like a travel team when you’re young, when you get a chance to go to a hotel and stay the night with your best friends. That was similar with those winning teams.

Angela DeVargas: Do you miss us Dodgers fans, because we love you!

Kelly: I do miss Dodger fans. I miss being at home and playing at home in front of Dodgers fans. One day at the end of my career hopefully I can make a return to Chavez Ravine and play. That would be sweet. We’ll see. I definitely miss Dodgers fans.

Steve Downey: Were you worried about writing a book like this in the middle of your career? Others who have done it, most famously Jim Bouton and Sparky Lyle, became unpopular among some players.

Kelly: Steve, I don’t give a crap. Oh well, if people don’t like it … I am definitely not worried about. I couldn’t care less. Being unpopular among players but popular among people, that would be fine.

Pamela Martinez: When you retire as an active player, what would you like to do next with your life?

Kelly: I want to do exactly what I’m doing now. I coach all my kids. I would like to coach multiple sports and teach kids not only how to become great athletes but how to become better people. I want to coach when I’m done playing. I don’t want to coach at the big league level. I don’t want to coach college. I would mostly likely coach high school or younger.

Chris Smith: My son, 9, has shown interest in becoming a pitcher. What should I do to best encourage him and put him on the right path to success?

Kelly: If he has been interested in pitching you should obviously tell him to continue pitching. It’s hard but the best thing is to play catch every day, or find a net or throw into a wall. Then go on YouTube and type in some of his favorite pitchers in the big leagues and replay those videos over and over and over. I’m not going to say he is going to throw like those pitchers, but when you watch something over and over you subconsciously learn what these guys are doing and you would be surprised. You can go out and your throws can become better for no apparent reason. Then when you get older and realize what they are doing with their mechanics you can implement it into your delivery. Just keep encouraging and tell him pitching is hard. I didn’t start pitching until I was in college, so he is already off to a good start. Just keep telling him he is the best. Make sure he is having fun, and don’t put pressure on him.

Gavin Lux done for the year

Gavin Lux, the starting shortstop for the 2023 season, is instead out for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee while attempting to evade a throw while running the bases during an exhibition game last week. You can see how the injury happened here. Your knee really isn’t supposed to bend in that direction.

So what happens now? The Dodgers have two candidates on the projected roster to replace Lux: Miguel Rojas and Chris Taylor.

In 2018, Corey Seager was lost for the season after playing only 26 games. Taylor received the majority of playing time at short until the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado at the trade deadline. Taylor played the position decently, making 10 errors in 671 innings. He had the worst fielding percentage of the four players who got time at short that season (Taylor, Machado, Seager and Kiké Hernandez). He has played 24 games at short over the last two seasons.

Rojas is an excellent defender, but he is a poor hitter. Last season he hit .236/.283/.323, good for an OPS+ of 72, meaning he was 28% worse that a league average hitter. By comparison, Cody Bellinger had an OPS+ of 78 last season, hitting only .210 but with more walks and power than Rojas. Trea Turner, who these guys are replacing, had an OPS+ of 121.

Rojas withdrew from the World Baseball Classic so he can spend more time in camp with the Dodgers.

So, if the Dodgers stay in house, they choose between superior defense with Rojas or a better offense with Taylor (who, even with a 2022 off year, is still a better hitter than Rojas). I’d probably go with Rojas to start the season. After all, the Dodgers had three players who were below average offensively in the lineup most of last season (Bellinger, Taylor and Max Muncy) and still won 111 games. Then they can try to swing a trade at the deadline based on how well they are doing in the standings. In short, they can do just what they did in 2018.

The Dodgers could turn to one of the available free agent shortstops, but the ones out there, such as Jose Iglesias, aren’t really an improvement on Rojas or Taylor.

The other problem is if Rojas becomes the starter, that leaves them thin on infield help. They would have to turn to someone such as Yonny Hernandez to be the backup infielder that Rojas was supposed to be.

We’ll see how things shake out over the next three weeks.

How bad is pitching?

Miguel Vargas is recovering from a broken pinkie, so he is not allowed to swing a bat. However, the Dodgers have been playing him in exhibition games so he can stay sharp defensively. But when he goes to the plate, he can’t swing. Seems like an easy strikeout, right? Just throw three pitches down the middle.

Vargas has come to the plate 12 times this spring and has walked four times. Four times a pitcher couldn’t throw three strikes to a guy who they knew wasn’t swinging.


In addition to Lux, pitcher Justin Bruihl and Tony Gonsolin are also dealing with injuries. Bruihl came out of Monday’s game with back tightness. Gonsolin sprained his left ankle and was unable to start Wednesday, and his status for the season opener is tentative.

Reliever Daniel Hudson, who is recovering from a torn ACL, had developed right ankle tendinitis and probably will not be available when the season opens.

They won’t make the team

The Dodgers sent a few players to minor league camp this week: Pitchers Dylan Covey, Landon Knack, Robbie Erlin, Nick Nastrini, Bryan Hudson, Jordan Yamamoto, Nick Robertson and James Jones and outfielder Yusniel Díaz.

Opening day roster

A projected opening day roster. The odds of this being exactly right are long, particularly among the pitchers, but this gives you an idea of what the Dodgers will look like this season.

Catchers (2)
Austin Barnes
Will Smith

Infielders (4)
Freddie Freeman
Miguel Vargas
Miguel Rojas
Max Muncy

Outfielders (6)
Mookie Betts
Jason Heyward
James Outman
David Peralta
Chris Taylor
Trayce Thompson

DH (1)
J.D. Martinez

The final position player spot will probably come down to Outman or Hernandez.

Starting pitchers (5)
Tony Gonsolin (if he’s not hurt)
*Clayton Kershaw
Dustin May
Noah Syndergaard
*Julio Urías

Relievers (8)
Yency Almonte
Phil Bickford
Rubby de la Rosa
*Caleb Ferguson
Brusdar Graterol
Shelby Miller
Evan Phillips
*Alex Vesia


In case you missed it

Chris Taylor’s phone might be the key to unlocking the secret to his past success

Even without that swing, Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas finding ways to nurture his talent

Even after Gavin Lux injury, Andrew Friedman hints at patient approach with roster

‘His shoe game is pretty tight.’ Why Dodgers hope Miguel Rojas’ play matches his ‘swag’

Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda honored with signs on 5 Freeway in Orange County

Shaikin: Is Major League Baseball really dying? Survey says no

And finally

Tommy Lasorda tumbles after being hit by a bat. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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