ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

D-backs’ Merrill Kelly learning from MLB’s top pitchers to stay sharp

Feb 22, 2021, 10:33 AM | Updated: 10:36 am
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly throws in the first inning during a baseball game agains...
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly throws in the first inning during a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Friday, Aug 14, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

You can never stop learning.

There’s always something out there that you can pick up and improve on.

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly has taken that to heart, using each and every day to get better, whether it’s exponential or minor. Just because you’re a starting MLB pitcher doesn’t mean it’s time to be complacent.

Kelly has made it his mission to constantly seek out improvement, utilizing more than just pitching equipment. Especially after his 2020 was cut short after a blood clot was found in his shoulder.

When former Arizona ace Zack Greinke was in town, that was Kelly’s go-to guy when he wanted to pick someone’s brain. His reasoning? You don’t stick around in MLB if you aren’t doing something right.

But gone now is Greinke, who was traded in 2019 to the Houston Astros for a handful of prospects. Luckily for Kelly, another 2019 trade brought another, more youthful arm for the starter to bounce things off of.

“That’s how you build camaraderie and cohesiveness amongst the team. … The guy that I probably talk to about it the most right now is probably Zac Gallen,” Kelly told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Monday. “He hasn’t been doing it for that long — he’s still young — but he’s definitely wise beyond his years. He definitely has a good plan, a good idea of what he tries to do.

“We play catch almost every day, so he’s a good sounding board for me. He knows kinda what I look like now, what my stuff should look like. When it’s off, he’s able to kinda get me back on track.”

Talk about finding a solid replacement.

While Gallen is in just his third MLB season, the starter has shown he can be a force on the mound.

Pacing Arizona’s starting rotation, the 25-year-old pitcher finished the 2020 season with a 3-2 record, a 2.75 ERA and a 2.7 WAR. Only five pitchers have a better ERA than Gallen (2.78) since he debuted in June 2019.

Gallen also added nine quality starts over 12 games. The next closest was Kelly with four quality starts in five outings, who went 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA. The pair was tops in the organization last year and the melding of minds certainly doesn’t hurt a starting rotation looking to turn the page from 2020.

“The calmness, no matter what is going on, the good or bad, he’s the same every single day,” Kelly said of what impresses him of Gallen. “He doesn’t get too excited, he doesn’t get down so just the levelheadedness from him.”

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