Tea White Sox knew when they signed Joe Kelly that the righty likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season, and the reliever tells Daryl Van Schouwen of The Chicago Sun-Times that he is targeting late April for his Pale Hose debut. Biceps tightness sidelined Kelly while he was pitching with the Dodgers in the NLCS last October, and it has resulted in his now being a few weeks behind the other pitchers in terms of readiness for Opening Day.
Fortunately, Kelly reported that he isn’t feeling any pain, and “the ball is coming out good for where they expected it to be, the body is moving a lot quicker. We’re just making sure we stay with the game plan and don’t push it.” Chicago’s two-year, $17MM deal (with a club option for 2024) with Kelly added the veteran reliever to an already stacked bullpen, and the Sox look to have assembled one of baseball’s deepest relief corps, even if Craig Kimbrel is still a potential trade candidate.
More from around the AL Central…
- MJ Melendez is one of the game’s top catching prospects, yet the Royals youngster recently made his spring debut at third base and has also been working out as an outfielder. Since Salvador Perez has the Royals’ catching position on lockdown, the team is exploring ways to get Melendez into the lineup, given how he is already nearing his big league debut. “If he’s able to keep making those strides, how do we get him opportunities if any present themselves? It’s just trying to be a little creative and not making big changes,” manager Mike Matheny told MLB.com’s Anne Rogers and other reporters. “Because he’s a good catcher. It’s just where’s the opportunity, and how do we make the most of the talent and opportunity combined?” Melendez hit .288/.386/.625 with 41 home runs over 531 combined plate appearances at the Double-A (347 AP) and Triple-A (184 AP) levels last season, and certainly doesn’t look like he has much left to prove in the minors. Cam Gallagher is slated to work as Perez’s backup, and if Melendez can at least handle other positions, it will only help him reach the Show sooner than later.
- Josh Naylor has been playing in Triple-A games this spring, a big milestone for the young Guardians slugger as he returns from major leg surgery last summer. “It was awesome to get back out there and do it again. It felt really real and I felt really controlled, which was the most important part,” Naylor told Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes. The 12th overall pick of the 2015 draft, Naylor has only shown glimpses of his potential at the MLB level, hitting just .250/.306/.389 over 633 career plate appearances in the majors. The lack of a 2020 minor league season and then his injury last year set back Naylor’s progress, and the Guardians are hopeful he can contribute to this year’s squad. Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said that there is some hope Naylor can break camp with the team, but “we want to make sure we’re doing what’s in Josh’s long-term interest and not just rushing to meet the artificial deadline of Opening Day.”
- Roster moves of any kind present some difficulty for a Guardians team that has an overload of prospects on its 40-man roster. As MLB.com’s Mandy Bell writes, the Guards added 11 minor leaguers to the 40-man in advance of the Rule 5 Draft, yet with the roster now full, Cleveland has little room to maneuver to deal with other needs. For instance, since it looks like Luke Maile and James Karinchak could both be starting the season on the injured list, the Guardians might have to make some tough decisions depending on how long either player is expected to be sidelined.