D-backs’ Carson Kelly dealing with forearm fracture, no timeline for return

Mar 21, 2023, 5:55 PM

Catcher Carson Kelly #18 of the Arizona Diamondbacks prepares to take the field before the MLB game...

Catcher Carson Kelly #18 of the Arizona Diamondbacks prepares to take the field before the MLB game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Chase Field on August 30, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE — The Arizona Diamondbacks will have to navigate the beginning of the regular season without starting catcher Carson Kelly.

The catcher, who was hit by a pitch on Monday, is out for the foreseeable future with a fractured ulna in his forearm. Per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro, the D-backs are preparing to be without Kelly for 6-8 weeks.

“It’s very unfortunate. A lot of teams are dealing with it right now,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said Tuesday. “There have been different variations — I know (Jose Altuve) broke his in the WBC. It just goes to show you it can happen anywhere at any time.

“It stinks. It was a tough day for me yesterday to get this news that he was going to get x-rayed and something was wrong. There’s no timeframe, we’re still gathering information.”

And while Lovullo typically holds out hope for a more promising diagnosis or recovery, he has Kelly’s timeline on the shelf starting at “several weeks.”

It’s a tough blow for a D-backs team looking to continue their climb up the standings following a 74-88 finish in 2022.

In 104 games played last season (354 plate appearances), Kelly hit .211 with an OPS of .617 to go along with 67 hits, 35 RBIs, two stolen bases and 29 walks to 79 strikeouts.

Defensively, he gave pitchers a trusted option behind home plate.

The injury is far from Kelly’s first, too, having dealt with a broken big toe and a fractured wrist in 2021 before suffering an oblique strain this past season. All three injuries required stints on the injured list.

“He’s battled a ton of injury. You get to a certain point with your athletes and they’re like your kids,” Lovullo said. “It’s very tough, but he’ll absorb it. He’s got some time to sit back and heal and when he does, he’s going to help us win baseball games.”

“I think he was better than I was yesterday when I talked to him,” the skipper added. “He’s got a great attitude, he’s been banged up, he’s broken toes, had a wrist injury last year. He’s always consistent with his attitude and I know right now is a tough time for him. He made me feel better yesterday after talking to him.”

With Kelly now sidelined to start the season, Lovullo and Co. have to head back to the drawing board on how exactly they want to attack the catcher position without the veteran.

Two names that could help fill the void are Gabriel Moreno and Jose Herrera.

The latter is coming off a 47-game showing (124 plate appearances) with Arizona in 2022, hitting .189 to go along with an OPS of .457. He registered 21 hits, five RBIs and nine walks to 34 strikeouts.

Moreno, who the D-backs acquired in the trade that shipped Daulton Varsho off to Toronto, recorded 22 hits, seven RBIs and four walks to eight strikeouts across 25 games played (73 plate appearances) with the Blue Jays last season.

The potential is there.

And between the two, Moreno leads the way this spring.

In seven games played entering Tuesday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Angels, Moreno was hitting .421 with an OPS of 1.29 behind eight hits, two RBIs and two walks to two strikeouts. He also scored five runs and roped two dingers across 22 plate appearances.

It’s a strong showing for a highly regarded prospect the D-backs want to utilize behind the plate. Even before Kelly went down with the injury, Moreno was viewed as a potential platoon mate — someone Arizona could ease into the lineup without throwing too much at him all at once.

Now, Moreno is likely to be tossed into the thick of things right out the gate.

Until the season rolls around, though, there’s still goals to check off this spring.

For Moreno, it starts with continuing to get comfortable with his pitchers and working on homing in on his defensive abilities.

“Catch and release on throws down to second base, his receiving, have been exceptional from my angle,” Lovullo said. “There are certainly parts of blocking that he needs to get better at and more consistent with. Maybe going to his right a little bit might be inconsistent.

“He might not know the pitchers as well as some others, but it’s been a crash course for him this spring. Jeff Bannister is working his butt off to get him up to speed. And that’s been since Day 1 of all the catchers, not just Gabby. Seems like he’s got a very high baseball IQ and that’s always a good starting point for a catcher.”

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