The Nationals have halted the throwing program of righty Shawn Kelley, according to a report from Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. While the veteran reliever was progressing at last look, he has since suffered a setback in his efforts to work through pain in his neck and upper back area.
According to Janes, Kelley is headed for a new medical check-up today. It’s possible he could receive an injection, she notes, but the approach is yet to be decided.
As things stand, then, it’s uncertain when the Nats can expect Kelley back in action. Even if he’s able to resume throwing in relatively short order, it may be optimistic to expect he could rebuild strength, complete a rehab stint, and return to the majors to show the team his form before the trade deadline.
The injury questions only enhance the broader concern with Kelley, who had been a major contributor in 2016 and is under contract through next year. In his 18 innings this season, he has allowed 14 earned runs — due in no small part to the fact that he has allowed nine homers already (matching a career high).
Though he is still checking in with a robust 15.0% swinging-strike rate on the year, Kelley carries a career-worst 4.5 BB/9. And opposing hitters are squaring him up at a prodigious rate when they do make contact, with a 46.4% hard-hit rate and 26.5% HR/FB.
As the Nats continue to peruse the market for relief pitching, then, the organization will need to account for the fact that it cannot firmly count on two key righties, Kelley and Koda Glover. With Blake Treinen and (especially) Joe Blanton also failing to deliver consistent results, surprising journeyman Matt Albers stands as the lone steady righty in the Nationals’ pen. While adding a closer remains an obvious focus, the need for a quality right-handed setup option at the deadline seems greater now than ever.