The Rays announced Wednesday that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Trevor Kelley, who signed a minor league deal over the winter and has been in camp as a non-roster invitee. A spot on the 40-man roster has been opened by placing fellow right-hander Andrew Kittredge on the 60-day injured list.
Tampa Bay originally made this move earlier in camp, but the league stepped in and voided the deal, as non-roster invitees are technically not eligible to be selected to the 40-man roster until March 15. Now that the transaction is permissible under that technicality, it can be processed as originally planned.
The 30-year-old Kelley has seen big league time in parts of three seasons with the Red Sox, Phillies and Brewers dating back to 2019. Most of that time in the big leagues has been a struggle, including the 2022 season, when he logged a career-high 23 2/3 innings for the Brewers but also served up a 6.08 ERA. Kelley posted a below-average 21.5% strikeout rate and a solid 8.4% walk rate with Milwaukee, but home runs were an issue last year. That’s been a recurring theme for Kelley, who has averaged a whopping 2.8 long balls per nine innings pitched (11 homers in 35 1/3 big league frames).
While Kelley’s big league numbers aren’t much to look at, that’s a relatively small sample and he’s thrived at the Triple-A level. In 164 1/3 innings there, he sports a 1.81 ERA with a 25.7% strikeout rate and 8.7% walk rate. He has a minor league option remaining as well, so the Rays don’t need to expose him to waivers if they wish to send him down at any point. That’ll give their bullpen some flexibility this season, and Kelley’s sidearm delivery can give opponents an additional look out of the bullpen.
Kelley surely felt some pressure after the original transaction was voided, as a spring injury or poor performance over the first few weeks of camp might have changed the team’s thinking. He’s given the Rays no reason to doubt their faith in him, however, pitching 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball with just three hits and two walks against six punchouts thus far.
Because he has a minor league option left, Kelley isn’t a lock to break camp in the big league bullpen, but even if he heads to Triple-A Durham to begin the season, his presence on the 40-man roster will make him one of the team’s top options should they need to dip into the minors. If he does establish himself in their bullpen, he’ll be a long-term option. Kelley is four days shy of a full year of MLB service time, meaning he’s still controllable for a full six seasons.
As for Kittredge, he was one of the Rays’ top relievers, pitching to a 2.17 ERA in 99 2/3 innings dating back to 2020. However, the 32-year-old was limited to just 20 innings this past season, as a June IL placement due to discomfort in his right elbow ultimately proved a precursor to Tommy John surgery. It’s possible he’ll make it back to the big leagues at some point in the season’s second half, but there’s no way Kittredge was going to be ready within the season’s first couple months, so moving him to the 60-day IL amounts to little more than a formality. If the Rays need another 40-man roster spot, they can do the same with right-hander Shane Baz, who’s also on the mend from Tommy John surgery.
GOAT Closer Esteban Yan
I would’ve felt so bad for the guy if he got injured the first week of spring training and missed being added to the 40 man roster because of a league technicality. I’m sure the Rays will harness his abilities to become an effective reliever this year. He’s looked good in spring training so far.
Really happy for Trevor hes a good guy