Merrill Kelly held strong in his last spring outing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Over five innings of work, Kelly produced his best start of spring training. The 32-year-old gave up just one run and four hits, while striking out six and walking one.
The righty said after the game that it was encouraging to have such a great outing as the regular season draws near.
“The way my stuff looked, the way it was coming out, definitely the best I’ve felt all spring,” he said.
Kelly’s outing was supported by a D-backs’ offense that held a three-run lead until the White Sox rallied in the eighth inning to score five runs.
The righty closes out the spring with 17 strikeouts and 11 earned runs given up in 18.2 innings across five starts. Sunday’s game was the first of Kelly’s five starts in which he didn’t allow at least one earned run in the first inning.
“Obviously, spring training’s a process and you hope to kind of feel better and better each game and that’s kind of what happened,” Kelly said. “Definitely this one was a springboard, definitely leaps and bounds over the last couple with the way I felt. I’m excited to get going in San Diego.”
With four days left until the regular season begins, manager Torey Lovullo announced the team’s pitching rotation for the first few games of the year and Kelly will be seeing action in the second game of the series against the San Diego Padres.
Madison Bumgarner will get the nod for Opening Day against the San Diego Padres on Thursday, followed by Kelly on Friday and Caleb Smith on Saturday. Taylor Widener will close out the series against the Padres on April 4, while Luke Weaver will take the mound April 6 against the Colorado Rockies.
For Widener, it will be his first MLB start after making 12 appearances out of the bullpen for Arizona last season. Through three spring training games (one start), the 26-year-old has allowed four runs, walked one and struck out 12.
“I’m obviously very excited to get a chance to be in the rotation for us,” Widener said. “I love the bullpen, but I also love starting.
“I love the routine that I can get into and I know that I have my set days whenever I’m going to be able to throw, so I can set my workouts better. It gives you a little extra time to prepare and it just gets your body feeling right.”
The righty slots in for an injured Zac Gallen, who suffered a hairline stress fracture in his right arm. There is currently no timeline for Gallen’s return to the mound.
“Taylor’s been throwing the ball very, very well so I think we were looking for somebody that could step in there and give us a very capable outing,” Lovullo said. “Taylor definitely deserves that opportunity.”
The D-backs travel to Mesa to take on the Chicago Cubs at 12:05 p.m. on Monday.