Former Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly finally reveals his unspecified injury


Joe Kelly is on the verge of pitching for the first time in the 2021 season. The former Red Sox reliever has been throwing in simulated games against the Padres' minor-leaguers, totaling about six outings with each appearance resulting in at least a couple of strikeouts, with his two-seam fastball registering in the high 90's.

If all goes as planned, Kelly could very well be back with the Dodgers next week.

So, why did it take this long? Up until now that was somewhat of a mystery.

The most specific anyone had gotten regarding Kelly's ailment was identifying the issue as a shoulder ailment. But as he told Friday, "I don't think people knew how serious it was."

In this world of the internet and information, such a secret involving a key piece of a World Series-winning bullpen is a rarity.

"I guess when you win the World Series, whatever you say people just take it ... Everybody is on the World Series high," Kelly said. "Say one of your guys is hurt and they ask what is wrong and they say, 'Oh, he'll be back tomorrow,' and it becomes three months later, Dodgers fans aren't going to get too mad. It's easy to get overlooked, is what I'm saying. A lot of people didn't think it was going to be that serious, but it ended up being a pretty good thing."

What most didn't know is that the delay in Kelly's debut stemmed from fairly significant right shoulder surgery performed by Dr. Neal Elattrache on Nov. 10.

"We found some cysts," Kelly explained. "My shoulder hasn't been good since the end of 2019. But during my suspension after the thing with the Astros (early August) my arm was super weak. If I was laying on a table I couldn't lift my arm past gravity. They asked me how long it was going on for and I told them forever. I couldn't sleep at night and it felt like fire ants were eating my arm from the inside-out."

So during his eight-game suspension, the Dodgers set up an MRI for Kelly. It turned out a "massive" cyst was growing on Kelly's nerve, allowing him to pitch with 50 percent of the muscles in his shoulder.

The plan was to try and decompress it, but that wasn't working.

"I ended up pitching in the World Series topping out at 95 mph, not knowing where it was going because had these cysts on my nerve," said Kelly, who would pitch five times in the postseason, allowing one run over 3 2/3 innings. "They ended up putting metal clamps on my labrum and then they decompressed all the cysts. They sucked out some loose bodies from my rotator cuff. So it was a good little surgery."

Kelly didn't start throwing off a mound until the middle of spring training. Other than a short hiccup due to scar tissue issues, the process has been a fairly smooth one.

"I figured after surgery I would be about a month behind, and that's pretty much where we're at now," he said. "I thought I had chance to come back a little sooner, but I amped it up a little too much. But it has been going pretty well."

Kelly is in the final guaranteed year of a three-year, $25 million deal with the Dodgers that carries a team option that would pay him $12 million for 2022 if picked up.

The Dodgers head into Friday night residing in second-place in the National League West at 16-10, 1/2-game in back of San Francisco.

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