Dodgers News: Joe Kelly Recalls Facing Shohei Ohtani

Originally published by DodgerBlue.com

As part of their busy offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired former first-round pick Trey Sweeney from the New York Yankees in exchange for Victor González and Jorbit Vivas, but the trade was more about clearing two spots on the 40-man roster for Joe Kelly and Shohei Ohtani.

Prior to their signing of Ohtani to a record-setting contract, the Dodgers brought back Kelly on a one-year, $8 million deal for the 2024 season. L.A. previously declined the right-hander’s $9.5 million club option in favor of paying him a $1 million buyout.

Kelly initially returned to the Dodgers at the trade deadline this year as part of a deal with the Chicago White Sox that also netted Lance Lynn.

Kelly is now set to be teammates with Ohtani for the first time in his career. “Obviously, he’s one of the best hitters in the game,” he said of the two-way star.

“I’ve faced him numerous times, a couple doubles off of myself. A couple of them could have been outs, I’m not going to say any names — AJ Pollock.

“Every time I face Shohei it seems he knows what pitch I’m about to throw even if I’m quick pitching, doing a triple leg kick or anything like that. In the playoffs, you need a guy like that that’s not afraid and wants to be the star in a big moment.”

Ohtani is coming off his second unanimous American League MVP Award, making him the first player in MLB history to earn all 30 first-place votes twice in a season. He hit .304/.412/.654 with 26 doubles, eight triples, 44 home runs, 95 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 599 plate appearances across 135 games.

Kelly went 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA, 1.32 FIP, 0.87 WHIP and averaged 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings across 11 appearances in his return to the Dodgers this past season.

The 2024 season will be Kelly’s fifth with the organization, and he is expected to continue having an important role in the bullpen.

Joe Kelly changed jersey number for Shohei Ohtani

Kelly, who has worn the No. 17 in recent seasons, switched to 99 after Ohtani signed with the Dodgers. Kelly is on track to become first Dodgers player to wear No. 99 since Hyun-Jin Ryu (2013-2019).

As part of the switch, Kelly joked giving Ohtani his number would be the closest he gets to the Hall of Fame.

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