ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly continues to iron out full arsenal with 2 starts remaining

Mar 13, 2024, 6:15 PM

Merrill Kelly...

Merrill Kelly during Arizona Diamondbacks spring training at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

SCOTTSDALE — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo expected Merrill Kelly to go “full throttle” with his arsenal in Wednesday’s spring training game, and the veteran was not shy to do so.

Kelly used all six pitches to get up to a 47 count through three innings in his second Cactus League start against the Colorado Rockies, the club he will face first during the regular season.

Arizona’s top two starters approached their latest outings a bit differently against division opponents, with Zac Gallen honing in on sharpening his fastball and curveball against San Diego on Tuesday while Kelly hit the Rockies with a full array.

“I never really shy away from throwing everything,” Kelly said. “I know that means that they see it, but that also means they have to think about everything. I feel like that’s one of the reasons why I try to implement so many pitches into the arsenal. The more pitches the hitters have to think are coming, the better for me.”

 

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The Rockies started most of their regulars with Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant, Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers and Nolan Jones atop the order.

Kelly allowed two earned runs on a single in his final inning on Wednesday but struck out four batters, one with the changeup and three with a cutter.

The veteran had a changeup focus on while continuing to develop the slider.

“I’ve thrown my changeup for a long time now, it’s kind of been the pitch that I’ve gone to when I needed something,” Kelly said. “The slider is obviously something that I want to make more consistent and more into a usable pitch, so the emphasis coming into spring was putting more emphasis on the slider and sometimes when you do that the feel for the rest of the pitches kind of isn’t as sharp.”

Similar to last weekend, Kelly’s velocity and spin were very consistent with where he was last season.

Kelly said he feels great physically in the slow play up to Opening Day after pitching from the March World Baseball Classic through the World Series last year.

He and Gallen have two more spring training starts to get up to four innings and five innings, respectively. Lovullo said they are right on track in the tight window set up by the slower play out.

“We can’t afford a setback … they’re going to be on a very strict schedule to make sure that they’re ready for 75-80 pitches in their last start here,” Lovullo said. “And then their first start (at Chase Field) will be very comfortably into the mid 90s. So they’re gonna be just fine, minimal concern. They’re both very prepared.”

Tommy Henry will start for Arizona on Thursday against the Kansas City Royals as the fifth starter battle marches on. Lovullo said there is no frontrunner, at least not one he’s willing to admit. The D-backs plan to take as long as possible before making that decision to give the candidate every opportunity.

Kyle Nelson, Geraldo Perdomo injury updates

A couple Diamondbacks got banged up in the past few days.

Left-handed reliever Kyle Nelson has a groin issue that Lovullo said he doesn’t think will impact his Opening Day availability. Nelson has gotten into four spring games thus far but will sit for the next “couple” days with no exact timeline given.

Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo had an awkward slide into second base during Monday’s game that caused some “lower-half” soreness. He did not play on Wednesday with most of the other starters and will sit again Thursday, but the plan is for him to be back in the mix on Friday if all goes to plan.

Diamondbacks at hump day

Kelly said he is certainly not ready for Opening Day two starts into spring, but that sentiment is a person-to-person basis. For much of the team, he called this part of spring training “hump day” with another two weeks before the games count.

Lovullo said drills have ramped up and was happy with the club’s effort pregame on Wednesday, although there is plenty to continue building up.

“I asked for a little bit more intensity with some of the drills, we had baserunners from player development come out and challenge us. I’m loving what I’m seeing in some of our pregame drills,” Lovullo said.

“Just got to tighten up a couple little tiny things, pitchers getting information into their PitchComm while we’re we’re dialing up their responsibilities with picks to first and third base, all those little things that are overlooked during the baseball season because we do it very well.”

During the game, Lovullo felt his players had too large a strike zone, not that they were chasing balls but needed to lock in on spots in advantage counts.

There were still some well-struck baseballs against Colorado, including a 112 mph double from Ketel Marte that roped to the wall in right-center field on a line.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a day with a double and a triple, while Jace Peterson — starting at shortstop as he battles for the backup job — connected on a couple hits and reached base three times. Oh, and Joc Pederson hit a 445-foot home run, according to Statcast.

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Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly continues to iron out full arsenal with 2 starts remaining