D-backs’ Merrill Kelly sharp in return from season-ending surgery
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly made his first start in a game on Monday since having season-ending thoracic outlet surgery upon the discovery that a blood clot developed in his pitching shoulder after five starts in 2020.
“I felt good. It was a whole lot of fun,” Kelly said on his return to the mound.
“Even from this morning, getting in the car and driving here today, it kind of felt like my first spring training game like back in ’19 just with the butterflies and just the feeling that I had of being able to get back out there and compete and be on the field with the rest of the team.”
It took an inning in this game for him to settle in against the Milwaukee Brewers, but Kelly picked up right where he left off prior to his surgery.
“I was a little juiced up in the first inning,” Kelly admitted. “I was getting a little quick, kind of getting outside of myself with a couple of pitches. But after that first, I kinda settled back down a little bit and the second inning obviously went a lot better than the first.”
After striking out the first batter of the game — Brewers’ shortstop Luis Urias — and getting first baseman Daniel Vogelbach to pop out to short, Kelly made his only mistakes of the outing when he walked right fielder Billy McKinney followed by giving up a two-run home run to catcher Manny Pina.
Kelly promptly rebounded by striking out the next four batters straight, including striking out the side in the second inning.
His velocity was already back to form in this first start against live competition, which was something Kelly was curious about coming off of surgery.
“From talking to people who had the procedure I had, some of the feedback was that it might take a little bit to get back to the velo that you were before the surgery,” he said.
“But I haven’t been too worried about it. It’s been coming out really well.”
Manager Torey Lovullo was encouraged by seeing Kelly hit 93 MPH with his fastball.
“Obviously, we’re going to compare to what he was like prior to the procedure, and when you see him respond the way he did today, it means he did a lot of work when nobody was around and put himself in this position,” he said. “So it was very nice for all of us to see.”
Kelly pitched two innings, allowing two earned runs on one hit with five strikeouts and one walk.
“All things considered and everything he’s been walking through over the past several months, I couldn’t be more pleased with what he gave us,” Lovullo said. “I think overall it was just a great day for him, for us, to see him back on the mound performing at a high level and executing pitches.”
The D-backs lost the 7.5-inning spring training game to the Brewers 7-1.
The D-backs will get their first look at the new division juggernaut San Diego Padres on Tuesday. Caleb Smith has been penciled in as the probable starter for Arizona. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm and can be heard on ESPN 620 AM.