Before Joe Kelly ends his long cryptic absence and pitches in a game for the Dodgers, he will throw a bullpen session Friday in San Francisco, manager Dave Roberts said.
The plan, which Roberts insisted is subject to change, would leave Kelly only two games before the regular season concludes Sunday. Roberts said “the hope” is Kelly pitches in one of them. He added Kelly is likelier to pitch Sunday than Saturday.
“His body is responding well,” Roberts said. “He’s in a good place and I feel good about it.”
What Kelly’s body is responding from remains unclear. Roberts has limited his specificity to “overall body soreness.” He refused to reveal more again Wednesday. Kelly has pitched once since Sept. 14. His only appearance during the span was Sept. 18. If he pitches Sunday, he’ll have gone 11 days without appearing in a game. Game 1 of the National League Division Series is next Thursday.
“I’ve talked to Joe, and he could pitch right now,” Roberts said. “But I think managing where he’s at so we can look out for four weeks and make sure that he can handle the workload that’s coming, when a player talks about that, you’ve got to listen. And I’m all ears and we’re in lockstep.”
Roberts said the Dodgers plan on using Kelly on consecutive days in the playoffs. Kelly, 31, has appeared in games on back-to-back days 15 times this season and in games on one day rest five times. He’s made 34 appearances with at least two days’ rest. Overall, Kelly has a 4.62 ERA — down from 7.59 in mid-June — in 50 2/3 innings across 54 outings.
“I think we’ve managed his workload really well this year,” Roberts said. “But every player is different. And when Joe talks about just his overall body and getting a blow to reset, we’re listening. But I do think that the reset, managing the workload, and … to get him ready for the workload coming makes sense.”
Alex Verdugo ruled out of NLDS
Alex Verdugo has been ruled out of the NLDS after aggravating a back injury on a rehab assignment Sept. 2 and will need to ramp up baseball activities soon if he’s going to be available for the NLCS should the Dodgers advance that far.
Roberts said the rookie outfielder has begun throwing and taking dry swings, but the progress is careful. Verdugo hasn’t played for the Dodgers since Aug. 4.
“Nothing too overly aggressive,” Roberts said. “So you’re managing the bat but trying to keep him where the body is still moving and active. But, yeah, absolutely, that’s the hope. But if it’s pushed back, if we’re fortunate enough to get to the World Series .... but the number one thing is we need Alex to be healthy.”