Bullpen prob­lems con­tinue with Kel­ley on DL

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

Be­fore the sea­son be­gan, the ar­gu­ment for the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ bullpen went like this: Shawn Kel­ley had been a closer in the past, so he was an op­tion for the job. Koda Glover was young, am­bi­tious and armed with ac­tive pitches. That also made him a choice. Sammy Solis was get­ting right-handed and left-handed bat­ters out last sea­son, mak­ing him a dis­tant pos­si­bil­ity, but, at the least, a late-in­ning, big-sit­u­a­tion op­tion.

All are now on the 10-day dis­abled list. Kel­ley was placed there Sun­day be­cause of a right trapez­ius strain. A.J. Cole was called up from Triple-A Syra­cuse to take his place on the ros­ter. Glover has a back prob­lem. Solis has left el­bow in­flam­ma­tion. He has been on the dis­abled list since April 19.

Kel­ley was not pitch­ing well. In 18 in­nings, he has al­lowed a stag­ger­ing nine home runs, which is the same amount he al­lowed last sea­son, his first in Wash­ing­ton, dur­ing 58 in­nings on the mound. Kel­ley has never al­lowed more than nine home runs in a sin­gle sea­son dur­ing his nine-year ca­reer.

He is also un­der con­tract for next sea­son. Re­lief pitch­ing is the most volatile com­mod­ity in the ma­jor leagues, which is the ba­sis for ar­gu­ments to not spend lav­ishly on bullpens. Young play­ers — like Glover last sea­son — can have un­ex­pected and su­pe­rior sea­sons. Other play­ers, like Matt Al­bers, can be sud­denly res­ur­rected.

De­spite that, the Na­tion­als took the rare step of pro­vid­ing Kel­ley, 33, and the re­cip­i­ent of two Tommy John surg­eries, with a three-year deal when he was signed in De­cem­ber of 2015.

Last sea­son, Kel­ley was ef­fec­tive. He fin­ished with a 2.64 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. How­ever, less than mid­way through his sec­ond sea­son, he can’t get outs and is now in­jured, only adding to the sea­son-long de­ba­cle in the bullpen. The Na­tion­als are sixth in the Na­tional League in team ERA de­spite be­ing last in bullpen ERA (5.21) by al­most half a run.

Cole has been pri­mar­ily a starter since join­ing the Na­tion­als. He has not pitched well at Triple A this sea­son. Cole comes to Wash­ing­ton with a 5.68 ERA in 10 starts for the Chiefs. He did have a qual­ity stretch from May 20-June 8 when he put to­gether a 2.81 ERA.

De­spite the bullpen’s in­juries and in­ef­fec­tive­ness, the Na­tion­als have a firm grip on the Na­tional League East lead. They just took three of four games against the in­jury-sad­dled New York Mets. The trio of wins fol­low­ing a 2-5 home­s­tand has put the Na­tion­als 10.5 games up on the sec­ond-place Mets. Their 42 wins are fourth-most in the Na­tional League. It’s easy to won­der where they would be with an even av­er­age bullpen.

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