Among the many moments lost in the chaos of the Nationals’ Game 5 loss was the quick and scary exit of right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley, who allowed a triple to Justin Turner and then tried to pitch to Adrian Gonzalez before leaving the game with what appeared to be an arm injury.
Kelley said later that he had lost feeling in his fingers while pitching to Turner, something that has happened to him before. He was not worried about the state of his ulnar collateral ligament, though he has more reason for concern than most: Kelley has undergone two Tommy John surgeries. People don’t undergo a third.
“I have unfortunately felt that before. I was pretty confident there wasn’t any damage to my ligament or anything,” said Kelley, who visited the team doctors right after coming out and felt confident he was fine. “It’s tough to go on when you only have feeling in two fingers. And scary at the same time.”
Kelley got ready for action quickly as the seventh inning collapsed for the Nationals, and Dusty Baker needed him before he thought he would.
“It’s probably just a freak thing,” said Kelley, dismissing the impact of rushing to get ready. “I got ready pretty quick, but that’s part of being a reliever. I torqued that pitch, and it sent that thing down my arm, and the rest was history. I don’t … I wish I could have stayed in. I don’t know how I could have.”
Turner’s triple ended up being the decisive blow, bringing in the third and fourth Dodger runs — the ones that allowed them to stay out of reach even after Chris Heisey’s pinch-hit home run. Kelley had a 2.64 ERA in 67 appearances this season and had stood up well to high-pressure situations. He did not look right Thursday.
“The next one I threw to Gonzalez I couldn’t really … I just really didn’t know where it went when it left my hand,” Kelley said. “Obviously, it’s a little nerve-racking having a tingling and no feeling. But on top of that, I didn’t know if I could throw anything where I wanted to or know where the ball was going. I told them that, and they decided to get me out of there.”
The Nationals signed Kelley to a three-year, $15 million contract before this season in the hopes he would establish himself as a late-inning staple. This season, he did that, able to stay healthy in a way he hadn’t in past years while maintaining strong velocity and slider command. He said he will need some rest to heal his arm.
“A few days to quiet down,” Kelley said. “Obviously, we’ve got time now.”