With a world championship on the line, Team USA “looks like” it will turn to Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly to start the World Baseball Classic final on Tuesday.
The U.S. defeated Cuba 14-2 in the semifinals on Sunday, as it continues its title defense from 2017.
Manager Mark DeRosa said after the win that his coaches will discuss their plan for the championship game, but it appears that Kelly will get the nod.
“We’re going to sit down and discuss starters, obviously it looks like it’s Merrill Kelly’s day,” DeRosa said. “We’ll discuss that a little bit more. I think my singular focus was how do we get our bullpen to Tuesday, and we were able to do that. That was the bottom line.”
Kelly has yet to pitch in a postseason game with the D-backs, but he is set up to take the hill in a sold-out loanDepot Park in Miami against the winner of Monday’s semifinal between Japan and Mexico.
Sunday’s game was also a sellout, and starter Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals — who has pitched in five World Series games — called it the “most crazy environment I’ve played in.”
Kelly has two starts for Team USA under his belt: an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels before the tournament and a group play outing against Colombia at Chase Field.
*bald eagles noises* 🦅@Mert_723 put up 3 scoreless frames in a tune up for Team USA. pic.twitter.com/1r4D6G8Jh4
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 9, 2023
His start against Colombia — which the U.S. won 3-2 to advance to the quarterfinals — started off strong with a 1-2-3 first inning.
Kelly ran into trouble in the second with the bases loaded and one out, but he forced a pop up and ground out to escape the frame unscathed.
Colombia scored twice in Kelly’s third and final inning of the night after a pair of doubles.
He threw 61 pitches, balancing out his fastball with offspeed.
Pitchers in the semifinal and final rounds are allowed to throw 95 pitches.
The D-backs will count on Kelly atop of their rotation this season with Zac Gallen, and the club sees the experience Kelly is getting with the national team as a positive.
Kelly is coming off a 200-inning season in which he produced a 3.37 ERA.
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