Notes: Rojas on a tear; Kelly returning soon

May 5th, 2021

Coming out of Spring Training in late March, it was all but guaranteed that D-backs infielder seemed primed for a breakout season.

Rojas scorched through the Cactus League, slashing .347/.405/.583 across 24 games, belting four homers and tallying 15 RBIs.

However, since Opening Day against the Padres, everything took a turn for the worse. In Rojas’ first 13 games, he was just 2-for-31.

“I had full confidence coming into the season, especially after the spring I had,” Rojas said. “I got too big. I was swinging at everything that they were throwing to me, and I was trying to do too much with it.”

Penciled in as a starter in the D-backs’ lineup, Rojas saw his playing time diminish as a result.

“That’s how you work yourself out of a lineup, when you don’t hit and you don’t produce and you don’t put together good at-bats,” Rojas said. “It’s exactly what I was doing.”

While out of the lineup, Rojas sought to simplify his approach, working alongside the D-backs’ hitting coaches and utilizing the video room to see the error of his ways.

“There's a certain belief that he walks around with every single day no matter what he's dealing with, what he's going through, and he's going to find a way,” manager Torey Lovullo said.

Rojas found a way, and with a number of injuries bringing him back into the fold, he hasn’t looked back since.

“It was my turn to get called on,” Rojas said, “I've just been trying to stay within myself.”

With a homer in Tuesday’s 9-3 loss to the Marlins, Rojas has now had at least an extra-base hit in his last five games played, the longest streak of his career.

Since last Thursday, Rojas has slashed .421/.450/1.105, going 8-for-19 with one double, four home runs and six RBIs.

“I think [it's] the mindset, the belief in himself, the comfort that he has every single day, and going out and working and getting better and a belief in the process that's allowing him to have success during the downtimes,” Lovullo said. “And when he gets hot, you can see what's going on. This isn't by accident, he's worked his butt off to make this happen.”

Kelly expected to make next start

While Lovullo did not elaborate on the reason why right-hander was placed on the IL, he is confident that Kelly will make his next start.

Kelly was put on the IL ahead of Tuesday's loss, and relief pitcher Joakim Soria was activated following an IL stint due to a strained left calf.

The D-backs will wrap up their three-game set with the Marlins on Thursday and head to Queens, where they will begin a three-game series against the Mets to close out a six-game road trip. Per Lovullo, Kelly will start on either Saturday or Sunday, however plans have not been finalized.

Around the horn

• The D-backs are working to ease back to catching duties. He was called up from the alternate training site when outfielder Kole Calhoun was placed on the 10-day IL.

Varsho pinch-ran for catcher Carson Kelly in the eighth inning on Tuesday, but he did not see action behind the dish in the next inning. Instead, Varsho took over center field.

“I told him while he was up here, it’s just still getting familiar with the big league environment,” Lovullo said. “Let's just focus on a couple things in the outfield and not necessarily worry about jumping into a full-time or a part-time catching role, so I just try to simplify it for him as much as possible.”

• With a home run in 15 straight games, the D-backs have the longest active streak in the Majors and are tied for the second-longest streak in franchise history.

• Entering Wednesday, the D-backs lead the Major Leagues in runs scored (153), only one run ahead of the Dodgers and Reds (152).

He said it

“He's on a great run right now, and it's certainly fun for all of us to watch.” -- Lovullo, on Rojas’ recent success