ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

D-backs’ Merrill Kelly goes 5 innings: ‘I like how I’ve been able to progress’

Mar 21, 2019, 4:51 PM

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during th...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The nerves are down. Emotions are in check. The size of the ball is more comfortable.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly had his third strong start in a row Thursday, giving up one run on three hits to the Los Angeles Angel in a 2-1 loss. He went five full innings, the first time he has done so this spring.

After giving up a total of five runs in 3.0 innings over his first two starts, Kelly has given up three runs in 13.2 innings over his latest three appearances.

“The first couple (starts) were just, a lot of nerves, a lot of emotions, a lot of excitement,” he said. “I like how I’ve been able to progress from start to start. I think for spring training, I think that’s the key.”

Kelly’s curveball was effective, including one that dropped away from shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the second inning.

But Kelly said his two-seam fastball in particular had extra motion.

“I don’t know if that’s because of the difference of the ball or what, or maybe the highness in the mound, but I think that’s been a big priority,” he said.

He said he’s still trying to establish the command of the two-seam, but with that, the curveball and some solid sliders, his arsenal looked impressive Thursday.

“As a pitcher, we’ll take more movement any day of the week,” he said. “I just need to know where to start it for a strike and kind of where to start it for a ball.”

Manager Torey Lovullo expects him to get one more start this spring. He said Kelly is scheduled to throw the final outing of camp.

Notes

— Third baseman Eduardo Escobar put together an impressive performance himself, fielding a few tough grounders cleanly and calmly working a double play after the leadoff batter, left fielder Justin Upton, got on base.

He also tripled, one of the only D-backs hits of the game. A fly ball to the deepest part of the center almost left the park, but Trout tracked it down at the wall.

— Ildemaro Vargas only had one plate appearance, a sac-fly to advance Socrates Brito from second to third base in the eighth inning. Brito would eventually score Arizona’s lone run.

Vargas has been one of the better hitters in camp this season, batting .396 with a team-high 21 hits. After a season in which he set the Reno Aces hitting streak record at 35 games, he’s fighting for a place on the D-backs.

Lovullo said there is “a little flexibility” on the final spots, but there’s more to evaluating a player than pure performance.

“We don’t necessarily look at the results. We look at everything inside of the results,” Lovullo said “(Vargas) has done an exceptional job of preparing himself defensively, he plays the game full speed, offensively it’s been a very, very good consistent approach, and the thing that makes him so intriguing is he’s fearless, he’s not afraid to make a mistake and i think that’s a quality that all big leaguers carry.

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