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Kelly finds groove in third spring outing

@SteveGilbertMLB
March 10, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly had by far his finest outing of the spring on Sunday afternoon, as he tossed four scoreless innings in Arizona’s 3-2 win over the Reds. Kelly’s first two starts of the spring were ones he’d just as soon forget about. In his first

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly had by far his finest outing of the spring on Sunday afternoon, as he tossed four scoreless innings in Arizona’s 3-2 win over the Reds.

Kelly’s first two starts of the spring were ones he’d just as soon forget about.

In his first outing against the Indians, he allowed three runs while retiring just one batter, and he allowed three runs (two earned) and walked three in 1 2/3 innings in his second outing against the Royals.

It wasn’t the impression he was hoping to make after being signed to a two-year deal out of Korea over the offseason.

“I think the first couple outings [I was] just trying to get my feet underneath me,” Kelly said. “There was obviously a lot of thoughts going through my mind the first couple of outings with, not only baseball, but external stuff. I think this week I’ve been able to kind of lay those to rest. And today was the first time I really felt more like myself on the mound than I have pretty much all spring.”

Kelly had attended one previous big league camp while with the Rays, but the past four seasons he pitched for the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization.

The D-backs liked what they saw from him over there and inked him to a two-year deal, and declared a spot in their Opening Day rotation to be his.

Kelly made quick work of the Reds on Sunday, allowing just a pair of walks over four hitless innings. He struck out four.

“It can only get better,” Kelly said of his mindset, after struggling in his first two starts this spring. “Obviously, one, I didn’t get through the first, the second, didn’t get through the second. At this point, I really didn’t have anything to lose. It probably couldn’t have gotten worse. Not to say the first two outings were bad, necessarily, they just weren’t very clean. Today was obviously much cleaner. Confidence is fine, stuff is fine. I think it was more just about getting my wits about me, wrapping my mind around where I am, and what I need to be doing rather than trying to do too much.”

Up next

The D-backs have their first off-day of the spring Monday. Left-hander Robbie Ray, however, will throw a simulated game so that he can stay on regular rest the next time through the rotation. Arizona will resume Cactus League action on Tuesday as Zack Greinke makes his third spring start against the Rangers at Salt River Fields at 6:40 p.m. MST.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.