The Dodgers will substitute David Price for Joe Kelly on their 26-man roster before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Manager Dave Roberts confirmed the pitcher swap, which requires approval from Major League Baseball, on a Zoom with reporters Friday.
Kelly started Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and allowed a two-run home run to Atlanta Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, the only runs the Dodgers allowed in an 11-2 win. He was then removed because of tightness in his right bicep after facing just four batters.
Players who are replaced in the middle of a postseason round are ineligible to return in the following round. That means Kelly’s season is over, and the Dodgers must attempt to stave off elimination in Atlanta without one of their best relief pitchers.
In his first six postseason appearances, Kelly had allowed only one run while striking out five batters in 4 ⅔ innings.
Price, a left-hander, hasn’t pitched since Oct. 2, the Dodgers’ penultimate regular-season game. He went 5-2 with a 4.03 earned-run average in a hybrid starting/relieving role. He was included on the National League Division Series roster, but did not appear in any of the five games against the San Francisco Giants.
In 23 career playoff appearances with the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays and Red Sox, Price is 5-9 with a 4.62 ERA. He went 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the 2018 World Series against the Dodgers.
Kelly, 33, might have pitched his final game as a Dodger. The team can exercise a $12 million option or pay Kelly a $4 million buyout, making him a free agent.
The Dodgers might make another roster substitution before the NLCS is over.
Left-handed reliever Justin Bruihl developed a sore arm while warming up in the bullpen during Game 5 and did not appear in the game. Roberts said the Dodgers are bringing an extra relief pitcher to Atlanta in case Bruihl also needs to be replaced.
The soreness “was something similar to what (Bruihl) had in September and just couldn’t post,” Roberts said. “He wanted to be out there, but his arm wouldn’t let him.”
Bruihl, 24, has been a useful weapon against left-handed hitters in the NLCS. He has retired all six batters he’s faced out of the bullpen – all lefties or switch-hitters – including five via strikeout. Two of Atlanta’s hottest hitters in the series, Freddie Freeman and Eddie Rosario, bat left-handed.
Roberts did not specify which pitchers are under consideration for Bruihl’s roster spot.
The Dodgers’ 11-run, 17-hit outburst in Game 5 came just in time to save their season. They had scored 14 runs on 28 hits in the first four games of the NLCS combined before exploding against Braves pitcher Max Fried on Thursday.
The game marked the first time the Dodgers had seen the same starting pitcher twice in the series. Roberts believes that was instrumental in their success.
“With Fried, there was a little more familiarity,” he said. “It was a week prior we saw him and he pitched against us. AJ (Pollock) set the tone early, hitting the fastball for a homer. CT (Chris Taylor) did the same thing. Fried’s game plan changed a little bit. … We got him off his number-1, which I thought was a very good thing.”
Ian Anderson will be facing the Dodgers for the second time in the series Saturday in Atlanta. Besides the familiarity they gained with Anderson in Game 2, Roberts is optimistic the confidence the Dodgers gained in Game 5 can carry over to Atlanta.
“With what Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock did, as far as the at-bat quality, the slug, feeling good about your swing , I think that carries over,” Roberts said. “With what Trea Turner did, obviously with Mookie (Betts) and guys throughout our lineup, the at-bats Albert (Pujols) had, I expect that to carry over.”