D-backs’ Merrill Kelly sharp in return from season-ending surgery

Mar 1, 2021, 5:56 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws against the Milwaukee Brewers in the fir...

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly throws against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning of a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks' Carson Kelly (18) is greeted by Christian Walker (53) after scoring against t...
Jake Anderson

D-backs tender contracts to arbitration-eligible Kelly, Walker, Weaver

The Arizona Diamondbacks have tendered contracts to arbitration-eligible players: C Carson Kelly, 1B Christian Walker and RHP Luke Weaver.
1 day ago
Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo watches from the dugout during the sixth inning of the t...
Arizona Sports

Diamondbacks fill out rest of coaching staff around Torey Lovullo

The D-backs announced five additions to its restructured staff, naming three assistant hitting coaches and two assistant pitching coaches.
1 day ago
Tampa Bay Rays' Jordan Luplow celebrates in the dugout after his grand slam during the first inning...
Wills Rice

Arizona Diamondbacks acquire outfielder Jordan Luplow from Rays

The Diamondbacks have acquired outfielder Jordan Luplow from the Tampa Bay Rays in return for infielder Ronny Simon.
5 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates after Eno Benjamin #26 (not pictured) scores a ...
Kevin Zimmerman

What Arizona sports fans can be thankful for in 2021

The spirit of Thanksgiving is about the gratefulness that comes with not having it all, but enjoying the some that you do have.
2 days ago
Kyle Nelson #30 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the ninth innin...
Jake Anderson

D-backs claim left-hander Kyle Nelson from Cleveland Guardians

LHP Kyle Nelson has pitched 10.1 innings over 11 appearances in his two years in the MLB, all of which have come out of the bullpen.
7 days ago
San Diego Padres relief pitcher Kirby Yates works against an Arizona Diamondbacks batter during the...
Arizona Sports

Report: D-backs ‘in mix’ to sign reliever Kirby Yates

The Diamondbacks are among six teams in the running to sign 2019 MLB All-Star and free agent Kirby Yates, reports Ken Rosenthal.
8 days ago
D-backs’ Merrill Kelly sharp in return from season-ending surgery