Dodgers in a dilemma as Joe Kelly continues to struggle

first_imgCHICAGO — The Dodgers broke from their established practice by signing a setup reliever to a big free-agent contract last offseason, expecting Joe Kelly to pitch in high-leverage situations for them.That hasn’t worked out well so far.Kelly allowed runs in seven of his first 10 appearances with the Dodgers and took an ERA of 9.82 into Thursday’s game. Opposing batters had hit .367 (18 for 49) with a .633 slugging percentage against him, thanks to four doubles and three home runs.Asked before Thursday’s game if he might need to use Kelly in less critical situations until his performance improves, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts didn’t give a direct answer. Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Roberts would not blame Dodgers catchers for their pitch selection causing the sequencing issues.“That’s on all of us,” Roberts said. “He has the ball. The catcher has the fingers. But I manage this club. We have a pitching coach. So it’s on all of us to take the responsibility to put him in the best position to have success. These are conversations that we’re continuing to have. I expect it to get significantly better, I really do.”Closer Kenley Jansen has his own amateur psychologist’s explanation for Kelly’s early-season slump.“To me – (World Series) hangover,” Jansen said.As Jansen found out the past two seasons, it’s difficult to come off the intensity of a World Series run and then manufacture the same intensity for games the following April and May.“I see myself last year,” Jansen said.FOR OPENERSThe Dodgers have vowed to limit Julio Urias’ workload, control the situations in which he is used and then give him multiple days off following multi-inning appearances.Sounds like a perfect candidate to be an “opener.”“It’s a thought,” Roberts said before admitting the Dodgers’ decision-makers have not discussed it. “I don’t know what effect that has. If he does open, how long is he going to pitch, when is he going to be able to pitch the next time? Obviously, that’s contingent on how long he goes. Is he going to go an inning, is it two innings?“I don’t think we’ve really considered that. But it’s a good thought.”Those same questions apply if the Dodgers continue to use him the way they did Tuesday in his first appearance out of the bullpen this season. Roberts brought Urias in to replace starter Kenta Maeda with the Dodgers trailing 6-1 Tuesday night. But by using him as an opener – with another starter such as Maeda following him in “piggy-back” fashion – the Dodgers could assure Urias pitches in, at worst, a 0-0 game.Using him with the team trailing as it was Tuesday “is not going to be the norm,” Roberts said.Roberts said Urias’ demeanor and warmup routine – despite major shoulder surgery in 2017 – do not require any special handling.“He is just so confident in his ability, No. 1, and the way he feels. There’s no anxiety,” Roberts said. “Him knowing he’s available to pitch that day, now he’s a regular reliever.”Using Urias as an opener with Maeda following him would create another problem. Maeda’s contract is heavily weighted with bonuses, including a potential $6.5 million for games started.Related Articles Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco center_img ALSOLeft-hander Rich Hill threw a bullpen session Thursday and is on track to make his season debut Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. …Shortstop Corey Seager was not in the starting lineup for the day game Thursday after a night game Wednesday. In his first month since returning from hip and elbow surgeries last year, the Dodgers had a plan to manage Seager’s workload.“To kind of have a plan of how you want to manage him and whether he’s swinging the bat well or not, we’ve managed to stay the course with that,” Roberts said. …UP NEXTPirates (RHP Chris Archer, 1-1, 2.74 ERA) at Dodgers (LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, 2-1, 3.10 ERA), Friday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA (where available), 570 AM “There’s some value in giving guys opportunities to have success and gain some confidence,” he said. “But I really don’t think Joe’s confidence has wavered. I think he’s very frustrated and upset with himself – which I like in a player. I don’t think he doubts his own ability.“But, to your question, I’m going to put him in positions that I feel give him the best chance to have success.”Roberts gave a more direct answer a few hours later when he sent Kelly out to pitch the eighth inning with the Dodgers protecting a 2-0 lead. Kelly survived a single off the ivy by Javier Baez to pitch a scoreless inning.Roberts has repeatedly said “the stuff is good” when asked about Kelly’s struggles. Kelly’s fastball has averaged 97 mph this season, down slightly from last year’s 98.5 mph with the Boston Red Sox. “A lot of it comes down to mis-execution and sequencing,” Roberts said.“For me, and I’ve talked to Joe about this, it’s mis-execution and I just don’t think the sequencing piece is where it should be,” Roberts said. “I don’t want to go too deep into that. But there’s a predictability piece of things that when you have weapons like Joe has, to not be as dynamic in a sequence in an at-bat, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’re minimizing your margin for error. I think that’s what’s happening to him in these 10, 11 appearances.” How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more