Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly shooting for August return from IL

Jun 22, 2024, 11:51 AM | Updated: Jun 24, 2024, 7:44 am

Merrill Kelly...

Merrill Kelly #29 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during the Spring Training game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 13, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly admitted his shoulder injury recovery is taking longer than he or the organization expected when he went down in April.

Kelly landed on the 15-day injured list on April 20 with a teres major strain in his right shoulder, and the club later put him on the 60-day IL.

The idea communicated by manager Torey Lovullo for much of the process was Kelly would be back around the All-Star break. Lovullo admitted last homestand they are past that point, and Kelly gave more detail at a D-backs Q&A event in downtown Phoenix on Friday.

“Originally we thought it was All-Star break, but it’s looking probably with how the progression lines up it’s probably a little bit later than that,” Kelly told reporters, according to Inside the Diamondbacks. “In my mind, I’m hoping I’m on that Tampa, Miami, Boston trip. … That seems to be around the right time I might be back in there. But obviously things can change as we go along.”

That particular road trip runs from Aug. 16-25, a full month after the All-Star Game on July 16. He is looking at the final six-week stretch to come back and make an impact in a potential postseason push.

Kelly, 35, said this is the first time in his 15-year professional career he has suffered a soft tissue injury. Last year, Kelly missed a month of action with a blood clot in his right calf. In 2020, he went through thoracic outlet syndrome. But this is the most extended time he has missed with the Diamondbacks.

“Not being on the field and not helping the team win. As competitive as we are, it’s tough watching the team that you love playing for and the guys you want to pull for and be there for,” Kelly said. “Sometimes you feel a little helpless. I think that’s probably been the hardest part since this is kind of my first time really going through this.”

Kelly added the Diamondbacks’ series in Philadelphia this weekend is the road trip he has missed going on the most.

“Look what happened last year, and their fans don’t forget anything,” Kelly said. “I had this trip kind of circled on our calendar.”

The Diamondbacks have a long list of injured pitchers with fellow starters Zac Gallen (hamstring), Eduardo Rodriguez (shoulder) and Blake Walston (shoulder) on the injured list.

Gallen is first in line to return and will throw a simulated game on Monday.

Manager Torey Lovullo told reporters Rodriguez’s shoulder showed “significant healing” in his latest MRI. The lefty could throw off a mound within the next week.

Relief pitcher Miguel Castro is also working back from a shoulder injury. Relievers Drey Jameson (Tommy John surgery) and Kyle Nelson (TOS) are out for the year

The Diamondbacks have been making do with a young starting rotation behind regulars Jordan Montgomery and Brandon Pfaadt with Ryne Nelson, Slade Cecconi and Tommy Henry filling in.

The D-backs this season have had the eighth-youngest pitching staff in MLB, according to Baseball Reference.

Merrill Kelly wants an extension with Diamondbacks

During the Q&A, Kelly was asked about the perk of not having to travel out-of-state to rehab at Salt River Fields. He said it was one of the reasons he loves being in Arizona and mentioned unprompted he has approached the organization about a contract extension.

“I don’t want to go anywhere. This is home for me, I want to be here as long as I can,” Kelly said.

Kelly has a club option for the 2025 season for $7 million. He will become an unrestricted free agent in 2026 at 37 years old.

The D-backs signed Kelly — who previously played for Desert Mountain High School, Yavapai College and Arizona State University — ahead of the 2019 season. Since then he leads the club with 131 starts and 775.1 innings.

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