Dodgers put Joe Kelly on injured list because of shoulder strain

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 1, 2024: Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Kelly (99) pitches.

The return of Walker Buehler after a nearly two-year recovery from Tommy John surgery is expected to boost the Dodgers' rotation, but the bullpen took another hit when veteran right-hander Joe Kelly was put on the 15-day injured list because of a right posterior shoulder strain before Monday night’s win over the Miami Marlins.

“He threw to one hitter [on Sunday] and came out of it feeling something in the back of his shoulder in the lat or deltoid area,” said manager Dave Roberts. “He got [an MRI test] and there was nothing remarkable — it didn’t show anything — so that’s a good thing. So it’s just a sore shoulder and he’s on the IL, but hopefully it’s a short-term thing.”

The team announced the roster move about 30 minutes before Monday's first pitch.

The hard-throwing Kelly, in his 13th major league season, was put on the IL three times in 2023, suffering a right-groin strain in April and right elbow inflammation in July with the Chicago White Sox and a right forearm strain in August with the Dodgers.

Read more: 'Ownership of the game': Former Dodgers ace Walker Buehler is ready to return

Kelly retired the only batter he faced in Sunday’s 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves, striking out Adam Duvall with an 89-mph curveball to end the seventh inning. He notched his ninth “hold” of the season and lowered his ERA to 4.73 in 15 games, with 14 strikeouts and five walks in 13 ⅓ innings.

Since giving up a season-high four earned runs on March 30, Kelly had given up only three earned runs in 11 ⅔ innings.

Kelly joins three other high-leverage relievers on the shelf — closer Evan Phillips, who was put on the injured list Sunday because of a right-hamstring strain, right-hander Ryan Brasier, who was put on the IL because of a right-calf strain on April 29 and is expected to sit out two months, and right-hander Brusdar Graterol, who has been sidelined all season because of an inflamed shoulder and is nowhere near a return.

Even with all the injuries, the Dodgers entered Monday night’s game with a 3.41 bullpen ERA, the ninth-best mark in the league, and a 1.09 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning), the fourth-best mark in baseball.

Read more: Walker Buehler shows some rust but overcomes it in his Dodgers return

They will now lean even more heavily on right-handers Blake Treinen, who was activated Sunday, Daniel Hudson and Michael Grove and left-handers Ryan Yarbrough and Alex Vesia, who has not given up an earned run in 10 ⅔ innings over his last 10 outings, including his fourth career save during Monday's 6-3 win.

“They've all been really good,” Roberts said on Sunday. “They're all throwing strikes, inducing soft contact. There are some strikeouts in there, and they're not walking guys. We were the victim of the home run ball early … but overall, they've been good."

Yarbrough replaced starter Walker Buehler to start the fifth inning on Monday night and allowed just one hit over three scoreless innings to earn the win, the veteran long man improving to 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 games on the season.

“He’s that Swiss Army knife that every team needs and is ready when called upon,” Roberts said of Yarbrough, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals last August. “He’s been great. He hasn’t seen the field in a week, and he didn’t miss a beat. To go out there and give us three scoreless innings, it’s not easy to do that.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.