With Mike Leake opting out, D-backs feel ‘very good’ about pitching depth
The Arizona Diamondbacks had a clear-cut starting rotation heading into the 2020 season of Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver and Mike Leake.
Leake, though, became the first known major leaguer to opt out of playing this year during the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that would leave many teams in a pickle.
The D-backs are not one. They had names who pitched important innings for them last season like Merrill Kelly and Alex Young still on the roster, the two of which who will likely battle for that spot in spring training.
“We feel very, very good about our depth,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo Tuesday.
“It lessens a little bit more of the traffic situation we had.”
Kelly seems to be the favorite for the job but Lovullo would not confirm who the fifth man is.
“I think Merrill Kelly deserves an opportunity to start baseball games,” Lovullo said.
The manager cited the right-hander’s strong close to 2019, when in his five September outings, Kelly allowed only eight earned runs in 33 innings for a 2.18 ERA.
“He was absolutely lights out and getting after it,” Lovullo said of Kelly.
Kelly, though, was 13-14 on the year with a 4.42 ERA over 32 starts because he was less than stellar in the other five months of the season. His monthly ERA in May, July and August were all above 5.00.
As for Young, multiple injuries put the D-backs in a challenging position where the lefty had to step up, and Lovullo said that Young “saved us.”
“He did a tremendous job and took the baseball and helped us win baseball games,” Lovullo said.
Young had a 3.56 ERA in 17 outings (15 starts) for the D-backs last season.
The D-backs report for spring training on Wednesday, where there will be a two-day period of COVID-19 testing before the actual work gets started on Friday.