Merrill Kelly comfortable ‘in my own locker’ amid career season for D-backs
PHOENIX — In his fourth year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitcher Merrill Kelly attributes his success to his comfort level.
“I’ve just finally gotten to the point where I almost feel like a big leaguer,” Kelly told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Friday. “I think it’s just being comfortable … in my own skin, in my own locker.”
The Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School and Arizona State University alumnus went overseas to Korea after five seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Following four seasons in the KBO, Kelly returned to the U.S. to play for the D-backs in 2019 as a 30-year-old rookie.
After an up-and-down first three seasons, the now 33-year-old Kelly catapulted into the top 12 in baseball with a 2.84 ERA. Moreover, he won the National League Pitcher of the Month Award for July, posting a 1.31 ERA and 4-0 record.
Kelly and teammate Zac Gallen became the first Diamondbacks duo of starters to win the award consecutively since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002. Gallen was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for August on Friday.
The D-backs’ two aces have lockers next to each other. While they have no spoken competition, Kelly says his teammate motivates him to be better.
“I love the fact that our lockers are next to each other,” Kelly said. “We can kind of pick each other’s brains … especially for a guy like me, whose been around the block for a little while … to see him do what he does is definitely motivating for me.”
Kelly and Gallen are top seven in baseball in ERA since the start of July, at 2.20 and 1.68, respectively. The D-backs have to win 19 of their final 32 games to finish the season as a .500 ballclub. They’ll need those two to keep pitching like aces to accomplish that feat.
Not only has Kelly seen success in 2022, but the Diamondbacks have been playing great baseball since the All-Star break. After only winning 52 games and finishing last in the division in 2021, Arizona finds itself six games under .500 and in third place this year, which makes going to work fun for the right-hander.
“Last year, we were just pretty much showing up almost expecting to lose,” Kelly said. “This year, it’s a different attitude, a different vibe walking into the clubhouse. Knowing that, we’re going to put some pressure on some teams.”
And apply pressure on teams they have. In August, the D-backs were fourth in baseball in runs scored and stolen bases. Jake McCarthy, in particular, put pressure on teams in August, with a league-leading eight stolen bases.
“We’ve got some guys that can run, that can put the bat on the ball, kind of make things happen,” Kelly said. “It’s exciting to watch and I think a lot of teams are probably not looking forward to playing against us the way we’re playing right now.”