Shawn Kelley doesn't know why he was DFA'd

Chris Lingebach
August 03, 2018 - 12:06 pm

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after being designated for assignment, Shawn Kelley still doesn't think throwing his glove in disgust was the real reason for the move.

Kelley slammed his glove onto the field after giving up a home run in the ninth inning of Tuesday's 25-4 rout of the Mets, an outburst that was immediately perceived as Kelley showing up first-year manager Dave Martinez, despite some peculiar circumstances leading up to the incident.

The now former Nats reliever spoke at length with 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Friday about those circumstances.

"Do you think you got DFA'd because you threw your glove?" Kelley was asked.

"I mean, that would be a pretty unprecedented move, wouldn't it? I don't know. If that's how it was interpreted, fine, but I don't know. There's probably more to it."

Asked what else could have led to his release, Kelley didn't have a clear answer.

"I don't know. You'd have to ask the general manager that," he said. "But I assumed that I would probably be traded at some point, just because the role I was pitching in, I wasn't pitching in high-leverage situations. If I could be more use to another team or help free up some salary or whatever, or get something in return. I kind of expected to be traded around the trade deadline. It just happened a few hours after the trade deadline."

Kelley is adamant he wasn't upset over being used in mop-up duty. On the contrary, he says he fully expected to have his number called for the ninth inning when Wander Suero's pitch count started rising in the eighth. 

"I was up moving around when he was still pitching, and stretching just in case I did," he said. "No, I've pitched in a lot of roles where I've just kind of covered some innings, and tried to get in there and finish games and it had been a little lopsided, and save other guys and get it over with, and get us either in the clubhouse, get the game over with or get us to celebrating the win. No, I have no issue with any role I've pitched in. I think I've proven that throughout the year in the roles I've pitched in."

"It's not 25-1 to you," Kelley said. "It might be to the team and the fans and a lot of other people, and everyone's cutting up and laughing and having a good time, but whichever reliever goes in the game right there, it's a 1-1 ball game. That's how you have to treat it."

Rather, Kelley was annoyed by a strange confluence of factors imposed on him by the officiating crew.

"I felt like the umps, for whatever reason, were just annoyed with the game and frustrated and took it out on me," he explained. "I was getting mixed signals from the umpires and I was frustrated about that. I let my frustration get to me a little bit, and the fact that nobody came out to even argue with the umpires or question them on my behalf, because I can't get tossed out right there in that situation and make somebody else come into the game."

Before Kelley gave up the homer and threw his glove, cameras caught him arguing with the umps, and him looking over to the dugout for help. Asked if it's fair to say he was upset with Martinez for not coming out, Kelley said, "Well, just anybody. I mean, pitching coach, whatever."

"I was being yelled at by the umpire to slow down behind the plate," he said. "And then the guy behind me started chirping at me, telling me he was going to call a balk on me. He actually said, 'You want me to call a balk on you in a 25-1 game?' I said, 'Not really. I'm just trying to hurry up and get this over with.' And then the ump behind the plate told me 'hurry up,' and I said, 'Well you just told me to slow down.'

"And then I got squeezed on a few pitches, I felt like. I just kind of felt like I was out there kind of own my own, and everybody was just having a good time not really paying attention to what was going on. And like I said, I can't go off on the umpire and get ejected right there, because then we use another pitcher and a third reliever in a 25-1 game."

General Manager Mike Rizzo used some harsh rhetoric to explain why Kelley had been DFA'd, sending a clear message to anyone who would listen.

"You're either in or you're in the way," Rizzo told reporters. "I thought he was in the way."

Kelley says he had a fine relationship with Rizzo before the incident, but questions the notion that he was somehow "in the way."

"Our relationship's always been fine. I mean, he signed me to this deal," Kelley said. "Like every other player, that's our boss and it's his team and it's his way how he wants to do things. That's fine, but I would challenge you, if anybody questions that, go in the locker room and ask the 25 guys in there if any of them thought I was in the way, and I guarantee you that you get a different answer. So, I'll leave that at that."

Kelley was Washington's second transaction in less than 24 hours. On Tuesday, just ahead of the 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline, fellow reliever Brandon Kintzler was traded to the Cubs. Barry Svrluga later reported for The Post that the Nationals believed Kintzler to be "responsible for anonymous reports that painted Washington's clubhouse culture as iffy."

"We want players who care about the name on the front of the jersey more than the name on the back of the jersey," Rizzo told The Sports Junkies Wednesday morning, moments before Kelley would be designated for assignment. "That's a demand that I make of them, and if we don't get that, then we have an issue."

Kintzler, in an interview on 106.7 The Fan not an hour after Rizzo's, rebuffed the notion that he was a clubhouse snitch: "I've never talked to that Jeff Passan guy in my life, so that’s an interesting accusation."

But Kintzler was confusing which report for which he'd been fingered as the source. As Svrluga would later clear up, it was this story – written by Chelsea Janes on July 19, on Nats relievers chirping about Martinez's misuse of the pitching staff – that the Nats believe Kintzler contributed to. Passan, on Monday, July 30, would go on to write about the Nats clubhouse being "a mess."

"I feel bad for Brandon. We've talked a few times," Kelley said. "Because it's one thing to be called names or something in the heat of a moment or when a move's made, but for somebody like Brandon to be — that's one thing in baseball that's kind of a no-no and can really tear up your reputation, is to say that someone's a rat, or tells ownership things, or tells media things that are supposed to be within the team, and that's not who Brandon is either.

"And I'm sure Brandon will tell you I'm not what I've been portrayed to be, too, over the last few days. Yeah, those things are tough to hear, and that's the one thing that kind of gets my blood boiling a little bit. I've spent 10 years trying to be the best teammate and all I've ever cared about is, when I retire, that guys say, 'Man, you know what I remember about Kelley? He was a good teammate.' And I've tried to live by that my entire career."

Asked if he feels like he was scapegoated, Kelley said, "No. That's a pretty big jump to a conclusion for me to assume that that's what happened."

"I don't like to pretend like I know what's going on when I don't have all the facts," he said. "Some people can take it that way. Mike has his reasons, the team had their reasons, for whatever they were, whatever their thought process is or whatever they're trying to do internally. I don't know what those are and I'm not going to pretend to say I do.

"But I do know Kintzler, he's going to a first-place team, and I may have an opportunity to go to another team, to be in the playoffs and help another group of guys. I wanted to help this group. I felt like I was a big part of this clubhouse and that was my family, but it's not now and I'm going to have a responsibility to help some other guys and some other people."

"And, hopefully, I'm sure Kintzler will make the most out of his situation and have a good run at it," Kelley said. "Hopefully I do too. And maybe we'll see each other."

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