Joe Kelly’s recent dominant form continued Saturday night. His fastball touched 99 mph. His knuckle-curve kept San Francisco Giants hitters off balance. And, despite two walks, he strolled back to the dugout with his 13th scoreless appearance in his last 14 outings.
The right-hander’s ailing legs, however, still weren’t normal. As a result, his delivery felt out of whack too.
“Right now, Joe’s not quite there,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Sunday, relaying his conversation with Kelly from the night before. “It’s nothing that’s a red flag for us, but as you gear toward the end of the season and the postseason, you want to feel right.”
Kelly’s injury, which Roberts has described only as a minor leg issue, has been bothering him for about a week now. Saturday marked his first appearance since Sept. 1 at Arizona. Though Kelly looked sharp against the Giants, Roberts said the team is monitoring his health. Kelly didn’t speak to reporters postgame Saturday or pregame Sunday.
“He felt that every throw, every delivery was different,” Roberts said of Kelly’s 17-pitch appearance Saturday. “It’s subtle, obviously, to the eye. But for him, that’s something he wants to clean up.”
Kelly, the Dodgers’ prized $25-million offseason signing, has become one of the club’s most reliable relievers following a rocky start. After allowing 15 earned runs in his first 13 ⅓ innings, he has posted a 2.31 ERA and .180 batting average against in 35 innings since May 8.
“He just didn’t have command [early in the season],” Roberts said. “Regardless of what you’re trying to throw up there, if you can’t command the baseball it’s all for naught. Right now, for the last few months, he’s had that feel. The delivery has been consistent. And he’s thrown the ball where he needs to.”
Which is why the team is being cautious with Kelly’s leg problem. Come October, he’ll have a crucial role in a Dodgers bullpen that has been unconvincing.
“We’ll work through it,” Roberts said. “It’s nothing that’s alarming, but I think Joe just wants to be able to repeat the delivery.”
Roberts said Justin Turner was out of the lineup Sunday, in part, because the third baseman’s ankle has “kind of [been] bothering him” in recent days. Turner played through the discomfort Saturday and is expected back in the lineup Tuesday when the Dodgers open a three-game series in Baltimore.
The Dodgers are planning to get infielder Max Muncy back in the lineup Friday. Without Muncy, who had 33 home runs before suffering a right wrist fracture Aug. 28, the Dodgers’ offense has hit a lull. In his absence, Los Angeles has scored more than five runs in just two of nine games and was shut out by the Giants on Saturday.
Roberts didn’t have an update on outfielder Alex Verdugo, who has been rehabbing from a right oblique strain since Aug. 6. “I really don’t know how much he’s doing as far as workload,” Roberts said. “As far as time to return, I really don’t have any clarity.”