White Sox’ Joe Kelly coming off injured list soon, knows he could be on the move

“If you keep losing, you have to look around the clubhouse and realize some of these guys won’t be here,” Kelly said.

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Joe Kelly pitches during a spring training game earlier this year.

White Sox pitcher Joe Kelly could be on the trading block.

John E. Moore III/Getty Images

NEW YORK — Joe Kelly has been around. And he could be on the move again.

Kelly has pitched for good teams, including eight playoff teams and World Series squads in 2013 (Cardinals), 2018 (Red Sox) and 2020 (Dodgers). And he has pitched for bad teams such as the White Sox, whose 40-55 record entering their series against the Mets in New York on Tuesday night is the fourth-worst mark in the majors. Kelly is expected to come off the injured list Thursday for the last of three games at Citi Field, and he might be auditioning for trade suitors.

When he signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Sox before last season, Kelly thought he would pitch for another good team, but here we are.

“It was a lot of wins. And playoffs,” he said, reflecting on how he sized up the Sox’ 2020 and 2021 seasons and the team, to be managed by Tony La Russa, he would join. “Honestly, [my free-agency timeline that offseason] happened so fast and quick, I didn’t have time to research so much. I just knew that the playoffs were made and the team was good. But, yeah, we just haven’t played good as a unit.”

That is for sure. Since Kelly signed, the Sox disappointed with an 81-81 campaign in 2022 and disappointed even more in ’23, an unforeseen development that makes Kelly — who shares responsibility for this — a potentially useful addition for a contending team looking to deal before the trade deadline Aug. 1. Kelly is one of the most experienced relievers on the Sox’ staff and possesses 100-mph velocity and a plus breaking pitch.

“It could happen,” said Kelly, who tested his sore right elbow with what he called a good bullpen session Sunday in Atlanta. “I’ll come back, and we’ll have at least a week [on the active roster, up and running] till the deadline.”

One week to show he’s good to go for the second half.

“I could have pushed through [without going on the IL],” said Kelly, who missed some time with a groin strain suffered when he ran onto the field for a bench-clearer in Pittsburgh, then reeled off 10 consecutive scoreless appearances shortly after returning. “It was one of those things where I was sore and I didn’t think I would be able to throw the next three games. I didn’t want to ding it up even more, especially with where we’re at in the season, what’s coming up. I wanted to be healthy after the All-Star break.

“I don’t think health status will affect [trade value]. I have a little more than a week [before the deadline]. If we play good, we play good. If we don’t, there’s a chance I could be gone. It’s not something I don’t know. My 11th season, it’s something I see every year.”

Kelly started last season on the injured list because of a nerve issue he had dealt with as a Dodger in 2021. His first appearance last season was on May 9, and he didn’t pitch on consecutive days until July 2. He finished with a 6.08 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 23 walks. His 2023 ERA is at 4.82 with 37 strikeouts and 10 walks in 28 innings.

“We haven’t played great, it hasn’t been a great season,” Kelly said. “There is so much baseball left, but if you keep losing, you have to look around the clubhouse and realize some of these guys won’t be here. It’s the business part of it. We could win the next five in a row, and that could change things. But a lot of these guys would say it wasn’t what they saw coming into the year. It happens.”

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