Wednesday night, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer threw a seven-inning shutout, holding the Kansas City Royals to one hit with nine strikeouts and three walks.
However, Bauer says he would've been removed from the game had he taken the field in the cleats he originally intended to wear.
One of the shoes was illustrated with the words "FREE JOE KELLY" in bright red letters. The other had a drawing of Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly making the now-infamous pouty face directed at Astros shortstop Carlos Correa after striking him out when the two teams first faced off on July 28.
Bauer showed off the shoes in a video posted to Twitter:
Snazzy kicks, right? Bauer intends to give them to one of the fans who purchased a Kelly-themed t-shirt. (Proceeds from the sales will go to a charity of Kelly's choice.)
MLB suspended Kelly for eight games, stating he intentionally threw at Alex Bregman and Correa, provoking a near-brawl. (A similar penalty in 2018 was also cited in the decision.) Upon appeal, the suspension was shortened to five games, which Kelly will serve once he returns from the injured list.
As reported by ESPN's Jeff Passan, MLB learned of Bauer's cleats and told the Reds they violated rules for footwear agreed to by the league and players' union. When the Reds said Bauer intended to wear the shoes Wednesday, MLB officials said umpires could remove him from the game if he did so.
Bauer confirmed this on Twitter after the game:
No, the "Free Joe Kelly" message wasn't political. But as player agent Rachel Luba explained, the league likely considered it a "negative statement" against the Kelly suspension.
So at least Kelly knows that one player outside the Dodgers clubhouse has his back. Bauer has shown disdain for the Astros and the sign-stealing that helped them win the 2017 World Series. But he underlined the point with one more tweet, for anyone who wasn't sure.
If anyone was ever interested in such a venture, Kelly and Bauer could make for quite a reality show. Maybe a mini-series.
Ian Casselberry watchdogs sports media for Awful Announcing. He's covered baseball for SB Nation, Yahoo Sports and MLive, and was one of Bleacher Report's first lead MLB writers. Please follow Ian on Twitter @iancass and give him a listen at The Podcass.