ESPN: Merrill Kelly’s role in rotation a story to watch for D-backs

Feb 11, 2019, 4:36 PM
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)...
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Last season, the Diamondbacks rotation was relatively static throughout the majority of the year. Patrick Corbin was the ace at the top, Zack Greinke and Zack Godley anchored down the second and third spots, and the last two spots were usually filled by some combination of Robbie Ray, Clay Buchholz and Matt Koch.

Things have changed heading into 2019, though. Corbin and Buchholz are both not on the roster, with the former signing with the Nationals in December and the latter still remaining a free agent, which means Greinke, Ray and Godley will all take steps up the totem pole.

This also means that the bottom of the rotation will need filling out, a job that figures to be tasked to Merrill Kelly.

Kelly, a local product who attended Arizona State before being drafted by the Rays in 2010, spent the last four years of his career in the Korean Baseball Organization. While there, he was able to add significant velocity to his fastball, which ultimately helped him turn his career around.

The D-backs signed Kelly to a two-year contract in December because of this, and according to ESPN’s David Schoenfield, his return to the majors is one thing to watch for during Spring Training.

Who is Merrill Kelly? The D-backs are hoping to pull off a coup with Kelly, similar to what the Cardinals did last year when they plucked Miles Mikolas out of Japan. Kelly, a former Rays farmhand, spent the past four seasons pitching in Korea, and he will get a crack at replacing Patrick Corbin in the rotation.

Mikolas is the latest example of a player’s return to the majors from overseas being a success.

Last winter, the Cardinals signed Mikolas, who had last pitched in the majors in 2014, to a two-year deal after a very productive three-year stint in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. He rewarded them in a big way, finishing sixth in the NL Cy Young voting after recording an 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA in 32 starts.

The D-backs are hoping Kelly can pull off something similar, and if he can, it will deepen the team’s rotation significantly.

Despite this, Schoenfield doesn’t see much reason for D-backs fans to be optimistic about next season, mainly due to the departures of Corbin, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.

Level of excitement: 2. The franchise icon is gone. Corbin is gone. A.J. Pollock signed with a division rival. I’d say this will affect attendance, but the Diamondbacks seem to draw 2 million to 2.2 million no matter how good or bad the team plays.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Tampa Bay Rays' Jordan Luplow celebrates in the dugout after his grand slam during the first inning...
Wills Rice

Arizona Diamondbacks acquire outfielder Jordan Luplow from Rays

The Diamondbacks have acquired outfielder Jordan Luplow from the Tampa Bay Rays in return for infielder Ronny Simon.
4 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates after Eno Benjamin #26 (not pictured) scores a ...
Kevin Zimmerman

What Arizona sports fans can be thankful for in 2021

The spirit of Thanksgiving is about the gratefulness that comes with not having it all, but enjoying the some that you do have.
1 day ago
Kyle Nelson #30 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth innin...
Jake Anderson

D-backs claim left-hander Kyle Nelson from Cleveland Guardians

LHP Kyle Nelson has pitched 10.1 innings over 11 appearances in his two years in the MLB, all of which have come out of the bullpen.
6 days ago
San Diego Padres relief pitcher Kirby Yates works against an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the...
Arizona Sports

Report: D-backs ‘in mix’ to sign reliever Kirby Yates

The Diamondbacks are among six teams in the running to sign 2019 MLB All-Star and free agent Kirby Yates, reports Ken Rosenthal.
7 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' Ketel Marte connects for a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ...
Nicholas Hodell

CBS’ Axisa: D-backs’ Marte and Kelly seen as offseason trade candidates

Three players from the Arizona Diamondbacks are among this offseason's top trade candidates, according to CBS Sports' Mike Axisa.
12 days ago
Houston Astros Pitching Coach Brent Storm (56) keeps a close watch on the mound during the regular ...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks officially hire Brent Strom as new pitching coach

The D-backs have hired Brent Strom, the Astros' pitching coach for the last eight years, to the same position, the team announced Thursday.
12 days ago
ESPN: Merrill Kelly’s role in rotation a story to watch for D-backs