Chicago White Sox

By Adding Joe Kelly and Kendall Graveman, the White Sox Aim to Turn Their Bullpen Into Dominating Force

[NBC Sports] Fans salute former Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly in his Fenway return with Dodgers
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The Chicago White Sox were sure to beef up their bullpen for the 2021 season with some big acquisitions both in the offseason and at the trade deadline, but they haven’t stopped, as they’ve made even more moves in recent months to turn the end of games into prime time for their roster.

The White Sox had the American League’s fifth-best bullpen ERA last season, with their hurlers putting together a 3.97 ERA on the season. The group was led by lights-out closer Liam Hendriks, and added Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline to help bolster the back-end of their pitching staff.

Of course, that didn’t turn out to do the team much good come October, as they were dispatched by the Houston Astros in four games in the American League Division Series, but G.M. Rick Hahn has responded to that setback by making even more moves this offseason to help ramp up the collective velocity of the bullpen.

Way back before the MLB lockout began, Hahn inked reliever Kendall Graveman to a three-year contract. Graveman, who had a 5-1 record and a 1.77 ERA in 53 games last season, will likely serve as the eighth-inning set-up man for Tony La Russa and the White Sox, giving the team a fireballer who can top 96 MPH with both his four-seamer and his sinker, as well as a tough slider.

The team wasn’t satisfied there, going out on Saturday and reportedly signing reliever Joe Kelly to a two-year deal. Kelly, perhaps best-known as the glasses-wearing meme machine of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dynamic bullpen, had a 2-0 record and a 2.86 ERA last season in 48 games, and averaged 97.5 MPH velocity on his four-seamer last year.

Of course, Hendriks is no slouch in the velocity department, averaging 97.7 MPH with his four-seam fastball, and he used that pitch to great effect as he made the All-Star Game roster, finished in the top-ten in Cy Young voting and struck out 113 batters in 71 innings of work for the White Sox.

Finally, Garrett Crochet adds yet another powerful arm to the mix, averaging nearly 97 MPH on his fastball too.

This group doesn’t even include Craig Kimbrel, who may end up being the odd man out because of his $16 million contract option that the White Sox picked up last fall. The team could potentially move him for some more financial flexibility, but if they end up opting to keep him, that is yet another arm that they can roll out in the late stages of games.

The big question that La Russa will have to juggle during the season is how to best deploy his bullpen, as he’ll have plenty of big arms to choose from. There will likely be a lot of mixing and matching, especially early in the season, but needless to say the manager will have plenty of options to choose from when locking down games.

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