Called upon to pitch in the ninth inning of last night’s 25-4 win over the New York Mets, Washington Nationals’ reliever Shawn Kelley struggled on the mound and had a glove-tossing outburst after he gave up a two-run home run by Austin Jackson.
Kelley gave a glance towards the dugout the Mets’ announce team noticed, saying that it seemed to suggest he was asking, “Why am I in this game?”, which was a 25-1 game when he took over on the mound.
Kelley rejected that notion when he spoke to reporters after the outing.
“No, you can ask everybody in the bullpen,” Kelley said, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.
“When [Wander] Suero’s pitch count got up, I said, ‘I’ve probably got the ninth.’ I figured I was the freshest reliever and I was going to throw the ninth,” Kelley said, adding that his frustration was due to disagreements with the umpires who were prodding him on his pace.
“Like I said, for me, I’m not justifying it. I should not have thrown my glove and acted like a baby out there. But at the same time, I’m acting like it’s one to one for me. I’m giving it everything I’ve got.”
Davey Martinez supported this take on the reliever’s reaction when he spoke to reporters after the win, as opposed to believing it was an attempt to show him up.
“I think he gave up the homer,” Martinez said, “and the whole thing with trying to pitch fast and the umpire telling him to stop. He was arguing. I gather that’s what it was.”
This morning, however, GM Mike Rizzo was clear that he viewed Kelley’s actions as a sign of disrespect towards the manager and the organization, and he made a decision to designate the right-handed reliever for assignment.
“Pretty cut and dry, you guys all saw it,” Rizzo told reporters in the nation’s capital.
“I thought that act that he portrayed on the field last night was disrespectful to the name on the front of the jersey, the organization, specifically Davey Martinez, and you’re either in or you’re in the way, and I thought he was in the way.
“That’s something you don’t come back from. It was a disrespectful act and I thought it warranted him leaving the team.
“I couldn’t see how he could face the rest of the teammates, and the coaching staff and the manager again, after such a selfish act in a 25-1 game.”
The glare into the dugout? Did Rizzo see that as a sign of disrespect as well.
“I did,” he said. “It may not have been, but that’s the way I looked at it. And after what we’ve gone through at the trade deadline and what happened before the game yesterday with all the getting ready for the post-trade deadline season, I thought that it was truly a day that we should have been happy and celebrating that we had a big win against a division rival and we felt good about ourselves, and such a selfish act really was not what we’re here for.”
Did the GM think the move sent a message to the team?
“It sent a message to Shawn Kelley, that was my objective at the time, and it resonates in the clubhouse, then so be it.”
Martinez, in pregame comments, told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, that it was a tough move to make.
“It stinks,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Shawn. But that wasn’t right. We just won a game 25-4.”
With Martinez a first-year manager, did Rizzo feel the need to stand up for him and the job he’s doing?
“You ask any manager that’s been here,” the GM said, “I’m in support of the manager at all times. He’s the leader in our clubhouse, I think Davey is leading in a terrific manner, and like I said, it’s the front of the jersey I’m worried about, not the back, and you’re in or you’re in the way.”
As for Kelley. After posting a 7.27 ERA, an 8.62 FIP, 11 walks (3.81 BB/9), 25 Ks (8.65 K/9), and a .266/.339/.624 line against in 26 IP over which he allowed 12 HRs (4.15 HR/9), Kelley had bounced back to some extent this season with a 3.34 ERA, a 4.55 FIP, five walks (1.39 BB/9), 32 Ks (8.91 K/9), and a .213/.250/.479 line against in 32 1⁄3 IP over which he’d allowed seven home runs (1.95 HR/9) after last night’s blast.
Shawn Kelley clearly thrilled to be closing out a 24 run lead... pic.twitter.com/I88bKNbmS8— Tim Murray (@1TimMurray) August 1, 2018
In spite of Kelley’s claims, and in light of the reporting by Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, who wrote yesterday that Brandon Kintzler was dealt to the Chicago Cubs at least in part because Nationals’ officials, “... believed he was responsible for anonymous reports that painted Washington’s clubhouse culture as iffy,” in an article by Yahoo!Sports.com’s Jeff Passan, reporting which Kintlzer has challenged, there’s reason to wonder if the Nats aren’t clearing the clubhouse of players they think might be malcontents.
Replacing Kelley on the roster, is hard-throwing right-hander Jimmy Cordero, who has a 1.67 ERA, a 2.72 FIP, 21 walks (4.40 BB/9), and 47 Ks (9.84 K/9) in 38 games and 43 IP at Triple-A Syracuse this season.