Give Joe Kelly credit: He packed plenty of action in the three weeks between injuries. He went from a spectacular meltdown against the Yankees on May 12 to a spectacular clean-up of an inherited mess against the Yankees 10 days later.
We also started to get the full Kelly experience around his pitching. During that outing, he expressed exasperation at Aaron Hicks after picking him off …
“So then I turn and I throw, and I beat him by a mile,” Kelly added. “I could see Aaron’s face just demoralized. So I was like ‘That a baby, Aaron. What the f— are you doing? I said way to go, you’re such a stud, that a baby. And I just let it rip because it was the dumbest s— ever, you know what I mean? Just play your game, don’t press.”
“The guy is a douche,” Kelly said of Donaldson during an interview on the Parkins & Spiegel Show on 670 The Score.
So between the four scoreless appearances and striking out four of his last five batters, it just felt like we were starting to understand exactly what we were in for when Kelly pulled a hamstring before, during or after a stuttering delivery of a slider for strike three Wednesday night.
The White Sox placed Kelly on the 15-day injured list with a strained left hamstring, calling back Tanner Banks to take his place.
This hurts for reasons both obvious and less apparent. For instance, when Kendall Graveman had to step in to finish the seventh, it was cool that Kelly could take over for the eighth, at least back when nobody knew that he wouldn’t be able to finish it.
But it’s also hurts that Kelly will be limited to seven of the team’s first 60 or so games, because it negates the advantage the White Sox were trying to build with the deluxe bullpen.
Imagine Rick Hahn having a limited budget for a home renovation, and putting most of it into the bathroom. Every house needs one, and everybody can appreciate a fancy one. Liam Hendriks is the zirconium-coated automatic toilet, Kendall Graveman is the radiant flooring, and here comes Kelly as the heated towel rack.
Except the towel rack wasn’t working at the time they bought it, which explains the markdown price. Sure, there’s bargain potential there, but wouldn’t the time and energy be better spent on the HVAC that sputtered under extreme conditions the previous fall, or the sagging front porch? Maybe, but Hahn’s focus remained narrow. Now those more detectable trouble areas look even worse for the wear when exposed to the new year of elements, and he still doesn’t have a place to pre-warm his socks.
We’d already discussed one risk of sinking the third-most money — and the second-highest portion of a payroll — in the most fickle of units, which was the fact that they can so easily be run into the ground well before October. Now here’s the other end of that spectrum, where a bullpen investment can’t pay off because highly paid supplemental relievers aren’t able to approach anywhere near the planned number of games played.
Injuries can dismantle the plans at any position, of course, but it’s different here. Let’s say there’s a universe where Michael Conforto had a perfectly healthy offseason and the White Sox signed him for all the reasons everybody wanted the Sox to sign Conforto, but then he injured his shoulder doing whatever he did over the winter, but this time in April. They’d have ended up in the same place, but at least they could say they devoted resources to a pressing issue, and maybe one of their Plan B’s can turn into a decent Plan A(2).
Instead, they have to resort to on-hand solutions, elbow grease and prayer for the offense, while the bullpen should still be fine trudging ahead with the guy it had already spent the first month doing without. Or at least it better be, because the only thing worse than wildly inefficient spending is wild spending that still wasn’t enough.