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White Sox: Joe Kelly’s Limited Usage Revealed

The White Sox and Joe Kelly had an agreement outside of his contract that explains his usage and Tony La Russa’s bullpen management.

Joe Kelly White Sox usage
Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo

Chicago White Sox free agent acquisition Joe Kelly pitched in consecutive games for the first time in 2022 against the Giants. He was shaky in both outings in San Francisco, but the Sox were able to hold on for victories in both games. Tony La Russa’s bullpen management has drawn a lot of questions this year. Kelly, along with Kendall Graveman, have been used very infrequently. Tony La Russa has oftentimes gone to relievers like Bennett Sousa or Tanner Banks in high leverage situations.

The Details

It was clarified today on 670 The Score why this was the case. It was revealed that Kelly has an agreement in his contract that dictates his usage.

Kelly was not to pitch on consecutive days prior to July 1. Kelly was finally used in back-to-back games this weekend. Kelly was returning from a nerve issue in his arm and did not start the 2022 campaign with the White Sox. He had a second IL stint when he suffered a hamstring strain. This contract stipulation only applies to the 2022 season. Kelly was acquired on a three-year deal.

Bullpen Management

Tony La Russa has been heavily questioned throughout the season on bullpen management. This adds perspective to a lot of his decisions. It appeared that the team was giving a lot of games away by not using their high-leverage arms. We now know why. More than a few games could’ve had better outcomes had Kelly been available after his return from the IL.

This Can’t be The First Time

It’s very easy to question this acquisition. The White Sox were definitely in need of some better bullpen arms in the offseason. However, it doesn’t exactly lend credence to a winning strategy. We are at roughly the midpoint of the season and the Sox finally have one of their biggest acquisitions available on consecutive days.

It’s fair to question Rick Hahn’s decision to agree on such a clause, but we can only speculate what his alternatives were. It’s difficult to imagine that this is the first time a player asked for such a thing. This may just be the first we’ve ever heard of it for a White Sox player. It’s the first time in recent memory that I can recall hearing this type of agreement.

Looking Ahead

It’s difficult to blame Kelly on the matter. He is toward the end of his career and was coming off of a rather serious injury. It was done as an effort to try to extend his career as much as possible. However, at this point Kelly has had a very rough start to the year. In 13 appearances, he has a 7.17 ERA and 2.057 WHIP in 11.2 innings. We can only hope that the righty can correct himself and be an asset for the team. They are desperately in need of relief pitching, especially in high leverage situations. It is key to a White Sox turnaround that he is available and pitching well for the rest of the season.

Tune in to the Sox On Tap podcast for postgame reaction and further White Sox commentary all season.

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