LOS ANGELES — Once again, Joe Kelly is a Dodger. The club activated the pitcher on Saturday before the middle game of a weekend series against the Reds at Dodger Stadium, one day after he was acquired in a five-player trade with the White Sox.
Kelly arrived at Dodger Stadium on Saturday early afternoon after a flight from Chicago and, after not having breakfast, he borrowed director of clubhouse operations Alex Torres’ car to buy In-N-Out burgers for the clubhouse staff. Kelly joked that the players might have been mad for missing out, but they weren’t yet at the stadium. But seeing some old teammates soothed any would-be angst, playful or otherwise.
“It’s like one of those old friends you haven’t talked to in a while, but you have everything in common,” Kelly said.
The Dodgers traded for Kelly and Lance Lynn from the White Sox on Friday. Lynn, who will wear number 35 with the Dodgers, is expected to report to the team on Sunday. He’ll start against the A’s either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Kelly is wearing number 17, the number he wore in his previous three seasons with the Dodgers, which was previously worn by Miguel Vargas, who was optioned to Triple-A on July 9.
Kelly comes to the Dodgers with a 4.97 ERA on the season, but a 3.24 xERA in his 29 innings.
“I joke with guys all the time, like a guy I just played with, Aaron Bummer, the numbers that really matter to winning I think is what’s not shown on the board,” Kelly said. “All they see is wins, losses, and ERA. They don’t see the numbers that ultimately really matter, that shows how good a pitcher is. Like FIP, BABIP, slug, and all those numbers.”
Kelly’s 32-percent strikeout rate is the best of his career, and the average velocity of both his two-seam fastball (99 mph) and four-seam fastball (98.8 mph) are his highest since 2017.
“If you took away those numbers, I think all my numbers on the peripherals have been the best of my career, like best velocity,” Kelly said. “It’s one of those things you can’t control — well, you can control ERA a little bit, but sometimes it’s out of your hand.”
The Dodgers are fans of how the ball is coming out of Kelly’s hand, so much so that Dave Roberts said he’s comfortable in using Kelly in high-leverage situations right out of the gate.
“I think he just adds another arm that we feel confident can finish a game,” Roberts said.
To make room for Kelly on the active roster, the Dodgers designated Phil Bickford for assignment.
Bickford, who is out of minor league options, had a 5.14 ERA and 4.40 FIP in 36 games this season, with 48 strikeouts and 26 walks in 42 innings. He led the staff with 14 appearances pitching in multiple innings.
Jettisoning Bickford also leaves 39 players on the 40-man roster. That open spot may or may not prove useful with the trade deadline just three days away.