NEW YORK - Shawn Kelley is confident his twice-repaired elbow ligament is sound. Beyond that, the veteran reliever doesn’t yet know the extent to which his arm is injured, or how long it will take to return to the mound.
Kelley had an MRI this morning and received an initial diagnosis of inflammation and nerve problems in his right forearm, explaining in part why his arm went numb while pitching the bottom of the eighth Friday night for the Nationals against the Mets. The 33-year-old will return to Washington for more tests and hopes to have a better idea of a plan of action after that.
“I think there’s still too much uncertainty to really feel anything right now,” he said. “We’ve still got to talk more to the doctors and trainers, do a couple more tests and get a better picture of what’s going on. There’s obviously some inflammation and some discomfort. I obviously couldn’t get out of an inning last night physically. But there’s no definitive solution at this point.”
Kelley threw 17 pitches Friday night before motioning to the Nationals dugout for a trainer. After a brief conversation, he left the game and returned to the dugout looking dejected. Given his injury history - two Tommy John surgeries for torn elbow ligaments - concern, understandably, was high.
But Kelley said this felt more like the sensation he experienced during Game 5 of last year’s National League Division Series. That proved to be a nerve issue, one the reliever insisted would have allowed him to return to pitch within a matter of days had the Nats advanced in the postseason.
Kelley is confident his ulnar collateral ligament is fine, but he’s admitted he’s frustrated with the other discomfort he’s feeling during what has been a difficult season. After perhaps the most effective performance of his career in 2016, he has posted a 7.27 ERA this year, allowing a staggering 12 homers in only 26 innings while missing time due to neck and upper back injuries.
“I feel really good that, as far as the UCL stuff, the Tommy John stuff, that’s not really an issue,” he said. “It’s trying to diagnose what’s causing the swelling, the tingling, the numbness, and then trying to fix that. ... I feel like here soon in the next couple days, week, we’re going to figure something out, devise a plan and not deal with anything like I’ve had to deal with all year ever again.”
Kelley, who remains under contract for 2018 at a salary of $5.5 million, insisted he’s not ruling out a return before this season is over. The odds of that happening, though, don’t appear great for a struggling reliever who was going to have a tough time cracking the Nationals’ postseason roster even if healthy.