The reasons for his popularity are obvious the minute you talk to him for the first time. His graciousness and straight-forward answers to questions after an outing — good or bad — have been good for the beat writers and media covering the team. In short, he’s a veteran who is trying to help you do your job while also not piling on the cliches.
And his personality is more than just a little bit of the reason he’s become such a beloved teammate. His success out of the bullpen, of course, especially when Texas was floundering for answers early in the season, has also helped.
With the White Sox rallying in the eighth and Pete Fairbanks knocked out after struggling with his command, the tying run was at third base with one out. Brett Martin struck out Yonder Alonso for out No. 2 with Texas clinging to a 5-4 lead. That’s when Kelley took over to face Tim Anderson. Earlier in the inning, Kelley had bullpen coach Oscar Marin call to the dugout to make sure manager Chris Woodward knew Kelley was available for an out in the eighth. And that he was ready to go for his first four-out save since June 2016 when he was with the Nationals.
Woodward was already thinking that he’d love to have Kelley come in to face Anderson no matter if the game was tied or the Rangers still led.
“So it kind of answered that question for me,” Woodward said with a smile. “Kelley is not a guy we really like to go four outs with. We like to keep his pitch total down. Not that he’s not capable of throwing a number of pitches he’s just not as effective. He’s so max on every pitch it’s not in his best interest or in ours to keep him out there too long. We obviously knew he matched up well against Anderson. He wanted the opportunity in the end.”
Kelley makes it a habit of of following closely to how each at-bat is going in the later innings in case he’s called upon. That’s what he was doing on Sunday.
“I’m not the freshest I’ve ever been but I felt like I could get four outs if we needed it,” he said. “I told [Marin] to call down and let them know because if that’s something they want to do they need to know I’m willing to do it and I need to start getting ready. He maybe went 2-0 to the next guy and the phone call came and I started getting ready.”
At that point in the game, Kelley said, it didn’t matter to him whether he was facing a right-handed hitter or left-handed hitter.
“If Woody thought that I could be of assistance, I wanted him to know I was ready to come in in the eighth,” Kelley said.
The Rangers went 4-3 on the homestand. They begin a six-game road trip with three in Detroit on Tuesday and finish with a three-game set in Tampa Bay on Friday.