Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen building strong outings with Opening Day near

Mar 18, 2024, 6:58 PM

Merrill Kelly...

Merrill Kelly #29 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 18, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE — Arizona Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly followed Zac Gallen’s scoreless outing Sunday with one of his own Monday against the Oakland Athletics at Salt River Fields.

Kelly got up to 64 pitches and four up-downs on Monday, striking out seven hitters in 3.1 innings. He finished off punch outs with four different pitches, including the slider that has been progressing this spring and a changeup that is back on track.

“I felt like I threw a lot of pitches today, I think part of that was good because I got some strikeouts but I think I need to start being a little bit more efficient,” Kelly said. “Sixty-five pitches in 3.1 (innings) is a little much. Maybe it just feels that way because we’re in spring and trying to build up.

“But other than that everything was sharp, fastball is coming out of the hand well, really liking the progress of the slider, I saw some really good swings and misses and some good location on it today. So I was happy with it.”

The final four outs Kelly recorded with Ks, and he stranded runners in scoring position in three innings.

Gallen and Kelly have combined for 7.2 innings, no runs and 11 punch outs the past two days, their third starts each. Gallen told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Monday he’s ready for games to count after going 4.1 scoreless innings and 58 pitches.

The two have one more spring training start each as they sharpen up for Opening Day when they face the Colorado Rockies. Eduardo Rodriguez gets the ball Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa.

A moment of levity on Monday came when a fan on the big screen received a trivia question about the oldest Diamondbacks player while Kelly was warming up.

“Definitely got some old man, some grandpa comments when I got back into the dugout,” Kelly, who was the answer, said with a laugh.

Kelly is the oldest player on the 40-man roster at 35 years old, although non-roster invitee Elvis Andrus has him beat by a couple months.

“I’m definitely closer to the end of my career than I am the beginning,” Kelly said. “But the fact that I’m still here — I got drafted in 2010, I think it’s my 14th professional season — that’s something to hang my hat on. And the fact that I’m still producing is always fun.”

Kelly maintained that his goal for the season is to pitch 200 innings, a milestone he accomplished in 2022 and again last year (including the postseason).

Arizona’s starting lineup produced three runs with two outs, and manager Torey Lovullo complimented the situational hitting. Christian Walker had a couple singles, while Jake McCarthy finished 2-for-3 with an RBI as he heats up.

Randal Grichuk’s status questionable

When the Diamondbacks signed outfielder Randal Grichuk a month removed from ankle surgery this spring, the timetable he expressed was Opening Day. Lovullo has maintained throughout camp Grichuk was on track, but 10 days away, his status is less certain.

“I think that’s the overall aim. We’re trying to be as optimistic as possible,” Lovullo said.

“We want to continue to push the ball downfield is as best we can. But we’re getting to that point where we got to start to make some critical decisions. So things could change, but he’s working his butt off to make that happen. But we haven’t made that decision yet.”

Grichuk has yet to appear in a game this spring, taking at-bats in live batting practice. The D-backs brought him in as a right-handed option who could play multiple outfield spots.

In other injury news, catcher Gabriel Moreno was back in the batting order on Monday for the first time in a week after dealing with lower back soreness. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo (left knee) is penciled into Tuesday’s lineup.

Diamondbacks narrow 5th starter competition

Arizona is down to three candidates for the fifth starter spot with Ryne Nelson, Tommy Henry and Bryce Jarvis, Lovullo said. Slade Cecconi and Blake Walston were optioned to Triple-A Reno on Monday.

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