Dodgers' Joe Kelly suspended 8 games by MLB for incident with Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly was handed an eight-game suspension by Major League Baseball for his role in the benches-clearing incident that occurred at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Tuesday night. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was issued a one-game suspension and Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker was fined an undisclosed amount, MLB announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Kelly, who threw a fastball behind Alex Bregman's head and later taunted Carlos Correa on the way back to the dugout, will appeal his suspension, making him available for the series finale. Roberts will serve his suspension immediately, prompting bench coach Bob Geren to be Wednesday's interim manager.

Under the 60-game format, an eight-game suspension accounts for more than 13% of the schedule. MLB referenced a previous suspension for "intentional throwing" in deciphering punishment for Kelly, who was docked six games for plunking and then fighting with Tyler Austin of the New York Yankees in April 2018. Kelly was with the Boston Red Sox at the time.

Kelly denied intent after the Dodgers' 5-2 win, saying: "My accuracy isn't the best." After his 3-0, 96 mph fastball sailed behind Bregman, Kelly threw four pitches high to Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel and later brushed back Correa with a couple of inside curveballs. After striking out Correa, Kelly made a pouty face at the Astros' shortstop as he walked off the field. Baker claimed Kelly also yelled: "Nice swing, b----."

Speaking Wednesday, Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. said he had no doubts about Kelly's intent.

"Joe Kelly threw a ball behind Bregman's head on 3-0 on purpose," McCullers said. "Not only did he take it upon himself to send a message, but he wasn't even part of the team during that [2017] season. We knew coming into the game that he likes to go off script. It is what it is. It was done unprofessionally. What he did after he punched out Correa was unprofessional. Running into the dugout was unprofessional. So it is what it is. We're here to play baseball. We just wanna win. That's it."

Baker said he was fined because his players came onto the field, breaking COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

"It's no big deal," he said on Wednesday about the fine. "I'll just pay a fine. No problem."

Baker added: "I think that the punishments were fair."

The Dodgers expressed a lot of public anger after an investigation by MLB confirmed reports that the Astros utilized an elaborate sign-stealing method that included banging on a trash can to notify hitters of upcoming pitches during home games, a practice that extended into the postseason. Kelly wasn't on the Dodgers' team that lost to the Astros in seven World Series games that fall, but he was on a Red Sox team that was eliminated by the Astros in the first round of the 2017 playoffs and then beat Houston in the 2018 American League Championship Series.

Ross Stripling, who acknowledged during spring training that he would consider throwing at Astros hitters if given the chance, said Kelly's facial expressions were "one of the funnier things I've ever seen on a baseball field" and that the Dodgers were "all excited because we'll have shirts to wear for BP." (T-shirts already have been printed by a Dodgers fan group.)

Dave Roberts said he spoke with league officials Wednesday morning and reported that they "weren't pleased" that players congregated on the field so closely and didn't abide by social distancing protocol given concerns of another COVID-19 outbreak. Roberts vowed to speak to his players briefly before Wednesday's game to remind them that they need to remain in the dugout. He believes Tuesday's incident "released" some lingering tension.

"This is something that has been built up over the course of seven months," Roberts said. "I think it was unfortunate, but to spin it, I think it's a good thing that we got it out of the way, nobody got hurt, and we can move on and play baseball."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.