ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

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.

Penguin Air

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks batter Jake McCarthy, left, congratulates Daulton Varsho (12) after Varsho's i...
Associated Press

Diamondbacks match last season’s win total with shutout victory over Rockies

The Diamondbacks notched win No. 52 Saturday night, matching last year's win total with more than a month remaining on the season.
21 hours ago
Emmanuel Rivera #15 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates after hitting a third inning solo home r...
Sam Graveline

D-backs’ Emmanuel Rivera hits 2 home runs in win over Colorado

Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Emmanuel Rivera is fitting right in with his new team, blasting two early home runs on Saturday.
21 hours ago
Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Chris Devenski works against the Colorado Rockies in the sixth ...
Associated Press

Arizona Diamondbacks drop series opener in Colorado to Rockies

The Arizona Diamondbacks only managed five hits in a loss on the road against the Colorado Rockies.
2 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks' Sergio Alcantara (43) and Geraldo Perdomo, middle, celebrate after scoring ag...
Kellan Olson

Diamondbacks rally to beat Pirates, make up for odd defensive blunder

The Arizona Diamondbacks' seven runs in the seventh inning picked up starter Merrill Kelly after he was positioned for an undeserved loss.
3 days ago
Chicago White Sox pitcher Lance Lynn warms up in the outfield before a baseball game against the Ne...
Associated Press

‘Field of Dreams’ game Thursday sees Cubs, Reds clash

“Field of Dreams” gets another tribute when the Cincinnati Reds take on the Chicago Cubs in a throwback ballpark in the cornfields of Iowa.
4 days ago
Arizona Diamondbacks right fielder Daulton Varsho leaps in vain for a triple hit by Pittsburgh Pira...
Kellan Olson

Bizarre double play, replay review costs Diamondbacks in loss to Pirates

The D-backs loaded the bases with nobody out down 6-3 in the ninth inning against the Pirates before one of the strangest plays of the year.
3 days ago
ESPN: Merrill Kelly’s role in rotation a story to watch for D-backs