Rizzo sends clear message as Nats DFA Kelley: 'You're either in, or you're in the way'

Chris Lingebach
August 01, 2018 - 2:53 pm

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports


Davey Martinez and Mike Rizzo stood in unison on the decision to designate Shawn Kelley for assignment, after the reliever threw an on-field tantrum in Tuesday's 25-4 win over the Mets.

"I thought that the act that he portrayed on the field last night was disrespectful to the name on the front of the jersey, the organization, specifically Davey Martinez," Rizzo said ahead of Wednesday's afternoon game. "You're either in or you're in the way. I thought he was in the way."

"After the incident last night, we thought it was kind of disrespectful to the organization. Really. So we sat here for a while last night and thought it would be the best thing moving forward," Martinez said of the decision to DFA Kelley. "And it stinks, it really does. I've got a lot of respect for Shawn, I do, but that wasn't right. We just won a game 25-4."

"That's something you don't come back from," Rizzo said. "It was a disrespectful act and I thought it warranted him leaving the team. I couldn't see how he could face the rest of the teammates, and the coaching staff and the manager again after such a selfish act in a 25-1 game."

The Nationals had already set a franchise scoring record, putting 25 runs on the board, by the time Kelley entered the game in relief of Wander Suero to start the top of the ninth.

Kelley quickly allowed a run on two hits and a fielder's choice, still leaving the Mets down 25-2, before giving up a two-run homer to Austin Jackson to make it 25-4.

Kelley thrashed his glove into the ground in disgust, and peered into the Nats dugout as he stomped around the mound.

"And he looked toward the dugout," F.P. Santangelo remarked on the MASN broadcast. "And that tells me that he doesn't think he should be in this game."

"He didn't pitch in five days," Martinez said. "I'm not going to disrespect another team by putting in a position player to pitch. I think he knew that he was going in the game, I really do. Just the fact that the way the game played out, and what the umpire was telling him to slow down and everything else played a big part of it."

The Nationals informed Kelley of their decision late Tuesday night.

"I think he was a bit shocked," Martinez said. "He apologized for his actions, but, I mean, it happened, and there's a lot of people upset about it."

Rizzo viewed Kelley looking over to the dugout as showing up his manager.

"It may not have been, but that's the way I looked at it," he said. "After what we've gone through at the trade deadline, and what happened before the game yesterday with all the getting ready for the post-trade-deadline season, I thought it was truly a day that we should have been happy and celebrating. We had a big win against a division rival and we felt good about ourselves. Such a selfish act really is not what we're here for."

Asked if the move sends a message to other players in the clubhouse, Rizzo said, "It sent a message to Shawn Kelley. That was my objective at the time. If it resonates in the clubhouse, then so be it."

"He's a veteran player, he's a professional, and it was something that I didn't expect," he said. "But it was something that I couldn't ignore."

The Nationals, in the span of about 18 hours, have removed two veteran relievers from their bullpen equation. Brandon Kintzler was traded to the Cubs, in exchange for 23-year-old reliever Jhon Romero, before Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline, a move Rizzo told The Sports Junkies opens the door for up-and-coming relievers like heat-throwing righty Jimmy Cordero, who was promoted to the Nationals minutes later.

Rizzo, in the interview, also uttered his "front of the jersey" line when speaking of Kintzler. He also noted the club's improved depth in the pen over the past year since acquiring Kintzler ahead of the 2017 deadline.

"You guys have heard me say it," he said. "We want players who care about the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back of the jersey, and that's a demand that I make of them, and if we don't get that, then we have an issue."

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"For me, I talked about this before, the way our bullpen was constructed, we needed a guy that could give us length," Martinez said Wednesday. "That was the whole Kintzler deal, I think. And (Wander) Suero can do that. He can pitch multiple innings. He came in yesterday in a blowout game after pitching two innings the day before, and tells me at the end of the game that he's good to go today. So, we need a guy like that."

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