The news on reliever Shawn Kelley is a bit ominous. Kelley, who has been out since June 16 with elbow issues, pitched one inning in Tacoma on Monday, and all seemed well. He talked optimistically to reporters on Tuesday about being close to returning to the Mariners. Kelley was scheduled to pitch in Everett tonight.
But while throwing in the bullpen yesterday, Kelley didn’t feel right, and he was scratched from today’s scheduled appearance. He’s been “shut down until we know a little more about his injury,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. Kelley will be checked out by Edward Khalfayan, the Mariners’ team doctor.
“It’s just been a little stiffer than normal lately, pretty much since Tacoma,” Kelley said. “I’m just going to take it easy and not rush like we haven’t been. I threw yesterday. I just didn’t feel really good after. I was a little sore after throwing. I just decided it would be in my best interest to be pushed back for a few days.”
Kelley admitted he might have been overly rosy in his outlook on Tuesday.
“I was feeling okay. I was trying to be more optimistic. I expected to be a little sore the first day after. But yesterday I was still a little sore. It’s a little disappointing and a little frustrating because it was going pretty well for the most part. I’m tired of being on the DL. I want to pitch, but my elbow is telling me no right now. They want me to talk to the doctors and go from there.”
Kelley had Tommy John elbow surgery in 2003, early in his collegiate career at Austin Peay State University. He said that experience has given him an understanding of elbow pain.
“I know when it’s not right. I’ve been through a lot of stuff with it. I’ve pitched through a lot of soreness and a lot of aches. It’s no big deal. It’s just what I’ve dealt with since the surgery. I was told that it was never going to feel the same after surgery, but I’ve got through it. I’ve always recovered. I’ve always been able to go out and pitch and be effective.
“Back in June when it happened, I wasn’t able to do that. I knew something was wrong. Something still isn’t 100 percent right now. So we are going to give it a few days.”
Assessing the toll of Kelley’s absence for nearly two months, Wakamatsu noted the increased workload of Brandon League as one byproduct.
“Shawn’s velocity was picking up to 95 mph,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s a young pitcher we thought we could grow into using deeper into the bullpen, so it’s been a big loss.”
—Ryan Rowland-Smith, on the disabled list with a lower back strain, will start for Tacoma in Iowa on Saturday. Wakamatsu said he had a strong bullpen session on Wednesday, Rowland-Smith will be on a pitch count of 75 to 90 pitches.
Speaking of Rowland-Smith, he was excited by the announcementThursday that an Australian professional league will launch in November of this year, supported by MLB. The season will run 10 weeks, through January, and feature teams from six cities across the continent.
According to the press release announcing the league, “The season will run opposite the baseball calendar in the Northern Hemisphere, allowing the League to attract some of the game’s premier prospects from the United States, Japan, Korea and other elite international competitions.”
“I think it’s really important for kids to be able to see professional baseball,” Rowland-Smith said. “When I was growing up in the mid-90s we had a professional league but it got shut down, which was really disappointing as a kid because I would go to as many games as I could to see live, quality baseball. I think it’s really important for the profile of the sport and I hope I can be a part of it. It’s really a good thing.”
Asked about his possible involvement, Rowland-Smith said, “I would like to work out with the Sydney team there and be around baseball guys. The other thing is to be involved in any way I can to help the profile of it from a media level, being more of a senior member of the Australian Baseball Federation, and hopefully some of the other guys, like Grant Balfour, do the same thing.”
–Wakamatsu was asked about the foul ball in the seventh inning last night that went uncaught near the Rangers dugout, leading to Michael Young’s decisive grand slam.
“It’s got to be caught,” he said. “How much is being a young catcher, how much is nerves? He turned and looked up in the lights. I watched it right away. He had a little trouble finding it. Experience is going to tell you to turn and look at the pitcher, and he’s going to point. Those are all development things. We’re not making excuses. That lack of a popup cost us probably four runs. But some of that is experience, and we’ll have a little bit of patience with that as we go forward.”
Jose Lopez didn’t go after the ball. Asked about the third baseman’s role, Wakamatsu said, “I think if he can get there…but that was Adam’s ball. He was half the distance…I wasn’t watching Lopey as much as I was watching Adam. To me, it’s a routine play for a catcher if he can see it right away.”
On the brighter side for Moore was his two-run homer in the fourth after striking out three times the previous night in his first game since returning from the minors.
“Adam and I sat down and talked about his experiences the first time up (with the Mariners), and how he’s going to approach that,” Wakamatsu said. “He goes out there and you can see the anxiety the first day. I think the line drive, the ball he hit to right, the first night took a little pressure off. Last night, he had three real good at-bats, I thought. It shows you what kind of power he has. That was a line drive out. You could see him smile a little. That’s what we’re trying to get him to do.
“What we talked about the first night was how many of those balls were out of the zone. The swing doesn’t look very good when you swing at balls a foot outside. We talked a lot about getting a pitch you can handle, similar to what we talked about with Michael Saunders.
“The adjustment is going to have to be what pitches you can hit and not chase pitches. I thought yesterday he worked the count better and got to a 3-1 count a couple of different times, and got a pitch he could hit. You watch him in batting practice, and he probably has as much power as anyone on our team, barring Russell maybe. He’s got a lot of power; when he swings at good pitches, his swing looks coordinated and fluid, and when he doesn’t, it doesn’t. A lot of it’s going to be his approach at the plate.”