Washington Nationals: Injuries define Shawn Kelley’s frustrating 2017

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DENVER, CO - APRIL 25: Shawn Kelley #27 of the Washington Nationals closes out the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 25, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 25: Shawn Kelley #27 of the Washington Nationals closes out the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 25, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Injuries have plagued Shawn Kelley’s 2017 season for the Washington Nationals and it has been frustrating for the veteran reliever

For Shawn Kelley, 2017 has been a year to forget for the Washington Nationals right-handed reliever. He has been on the disabled list twice this year due to a lower back strain in May and a right trapezius strain in June. On Friday night, Kelley left the game against the Mets in the eighth inning due to an injury. Here is what Dusty Baker said about his status yesterday


Kelley has had two Tommy John surgeries in his career, so any arm injury is going to raise a red flag. However, while he is going to undergo more tests, Kelley thinks the UCL is in good shape, which is a great sign going forward

Last season, Kelley went into the postseason having not allowed an earned run in the month of September and was arguably the team’s second best reliever (behind closer Mark Melancon). Fast forward one year later and the 33-year-old has been anything but reliable for the Nats.

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In 33 games, the 34-year-old has a 7.27 ERA and has given up 21 runs and 12 home runs in 26 innings. The 12 home runs are three more than he allowed all of last season.

As for the speed on Kelley’s fastball, the average velocity went down from 92.4 miles-per-hour last year to 91.8 this season and the slider was down to 81.6 mph (83.1 last year). Those stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.

While Kelley had a good first season last year in D.C., it did not end well as he left Game 5 of the NLDS due to injury and he lost feeling in his fingers, which was similar to how he felt during Friday night’s game. He went from having a chance at the closer spot in spring to pitching in mop-up duty on some nights.

Now, Kelley was not going to be on the postseason roster anyway in all likelihood. With that being said, you never want to see a player end their season because of something they can’t control.

When the Nats signed Kelley in December 2015, they decided to give him a three-year deal worth $15 million. He is owed $5.5 million next year, so barring an offseason trade, he is going to get an opportunity in 2018 to pitch in one of the late innings.

The Nats bullpen has had a major turnover over the last 12 months and its always unpredictable to figure out how great a bullpen will be in a particular year. Before the season, Kelley was considered to be a major piece in the later innings. Now, his year likely comes to an end and as Dan Kolko of MASN tweeted last night, he is a major voice in the Washington Nationals clubhouse:

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Here’s to hoping Kelley gets better soon and plays a factor in next year’s bullpen. At the very least, let’s hope it isn’t a third Tommy John surgery because that would be extremely tough to come back from.

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