'No panic, no rush': D-backs' No. 27 prospect thrives in first start
Merrill Kelly in line to pitch for Team USA in World Baseball Classic championship game
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ahead of Bryce Jarvis’ first Cactus League start on Monday afternoon, manager Torey Lovullo said he wanted to see command and some swings and misses from the D-backs’ No. 27 prospect.
Through his first three innings against the White Sox in a 7-3 victory at Camelback Ranch, Jarvis managed to do just that before running into trouble in the fourth. Building off a pair of two-inning relief appearances, Jarvis went 4 2/3 innings on Monday, giving up three runs on five hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
“I thought it was really good,” Jarvis said. “Any time you get to throw in these types of competition games it’s good. … I haven’t felt like that in a long time, to be honest. Just in control the whole time, no panic, no rush. I think that’s something I can take with and run.”
Jarvis struggled last season, compiling an 8.27 ERA with 27 homers over 106 2/3 innings with Double-A Amarillo. The 25-year-old righty targeted his fastball this offseason after noting a lack of extension that resulted in him getting hit hard on the pitch, as reported by Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic.
Outside of a 1-0 changeup that Hanser Alberto sailed over the wall in left for a three-run homer in the fourth, Jarvis felt in control of all four pitches -- even his fastball.
“Everything, honestly,” Jarvis said of what he felt was working. “That’s part of feeling in control, feeling like you have all four pitches working. Didn’t feel like I had to hide the fastball. But yeah just being able to throw anything in any count, staying ahead of guys, attacking, and knowing that my best stuff is good enough to beat them out there.”
Jarvis, who was taken by the D-backs in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year. Having already been reassigned to Minor League camp, Monday’s start wasn’t about making a case for the Opening Day roster. Instead, Jarvis had the chance to show what he’s been working on over the past two and a half weeks.
“It’s always nice to see younger guys that we’ve had a good look at get sent down and then get these opportunities,” Lovullo said. “Because you can see some of their progress, and know he’s eager for this opportunity. But I want him to just go out there, have a good mound presence, maintain composure and just execute pitches.”
Kelly making D-backs proud on international stage
Of the 13 D-backs who left camp to participate in this year’s Classic, only two remain in contention. Alek Thomas, a member of Team Mexico, and Merrill Kelly, a member of Team USA, are away as Mexico faces Japan in Monday's semifinal before Team USA plays the winner in Tuesday’s championship game at loanDepot park.
Team USA manager Mark DeRosa hasn't named a starter yet, but Kelly could get the nod for Tuesday’s title game.
“I think obviously now if it happens where he throws tomorrow, it’ll be a great opportunity for him to let the world see that he’s a pretty darn good pitcher and ready for this challenge,” Lovullo said. “So we’re proud of him, we’re proud of him no matter what happens.”
Regardless of whether he gets the start, Kelly is slated to pitch at some point tomorrow in order to stay on track to pitch every five days. The right-hander got the start in Team USA’s March 15 contest vs. Team Colombia, giving up two runs over three innings as USA punched its ticket to the semis in Miami.
Lovullo has managed to stay in contact with his players throughout the tournament thanks to a group text that was created at the start of the Classic. Though Lovullo, Thomas and Kelly are the only remaining active members, Thomas has made sure to keep the thread entertaining.
“Nobody likes the group text and the memes and the GIFs more than Alek Thomas, he loves it,” Lovullo said. “I responded to something today and Merrill got engaged a little bit. He knows we’re proud of him, we’ll all be watching. I guarantee as soon as we turn the page on tomorrow, what we got to do here [in Spring Training], everybody will tune in to what’s going on there and he’ll make us proud, I know that.”