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Kelly anticipates being 'ready to go' in spring

@SteveGilbertMLB
November 23, 2020

PHOENIX -- D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly expects to be back throwing by the end of this month as he continues his rehabilitation from thoracic outlet surgery in September. “I’d like to give myself enough time on the back end getting toward Spring Training, so if anything were to pop up,

PHOENIX -- D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly expects to be back throwing by the end of this month as he continues his rehabilitation from thoracic outlet surgery in September.

“I’d like to give myself enough time on the back end getting toward Spring Training, so if anything were to pop up, we have more time to handle it,” Kelly said recently. “For where I am and how I feel and the feedback I’m getting from [medical staff], I don’t see there being a problem being ready to go.”

That’s good news for the D-backs, who will count on Kelly to be a part of their rotation in 2021.

It’s a different spot than the one Kelly found himself in heading into Spring Training in 2020. At that time, he was coming off a rookie season in which he went 13-14 with a 4.42 ERA in 32 starts.

But with the signing of free agent Madison Bumgarner and the return to health of Luke Weaver, it appeared that Kelly, fairly or not, might have been on the outside looking in when Spring Training opened.

After Mike Leake elected not to play in 2020 following the COVID-19 shutdown, Kelly grabbed the fifth spot in the rotation and was one of the team’s best pitchers along with Zac Gallen.

In five starts before his injury, Kelly went 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA and an ERA+ of 179.

Kelly, who came up through the Rays’ system, pitched in Korea for four years before signing with the D-backs prior to the 2019 season. Given his performance last year, the team picked up his $4.25 million option for 2021.

“I tried not to think about it too much either way,” Kelly said. “I knew what the situation was. I knew the spot I was in, but I also recognize where we are in the world and in the industry. So I don’t think I would have been shocked either way because of the situation and the circumstances we find ourselves in. Obviously, I was just super excited when it happened.”

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