Straily eyes spot with D-backs after KBO tune-up

'I went over there with goals in mind, and I would say we absolutely smashed the goals'

February 22nd, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he decided to return to the United States from Korea after the 2021 season, Dan Straily had numerous offers from teams, so he used a couple of criteria in making his decision: Opportunity and geography.

The D-backs met both requirements, with an opening in their starting rotation and a short flight away from his home in Oregon.

Straily signed a Minor League deal with the D-backs on Feb. 2 and joined 78 other Minor League and non-roster players at the team's Salt River Fields facility beginning last week, as the organization put on a regularly scheduled early-spring camp.

Drafted by the A's in the 24th round in 2009, the 33-year-old has pitched parts of eight seasons in the big leagues for six clubs. After compiling a 9.82 ERA in 14 games (eight starts) for the Orioles in 2019, Straily decided to sign with Lotte in the Korean Baseball League (KBO).

"I went over there because I had some things to work on," Straily said. "And I was very aware of that. So I got over there and just went to work on them."

Straily completely changed his curveball grip, worked on fine-tuning his changeup after watching what was a plus pitch for him flatten out over the years, and developed consistency with his cut fastball.

There was plenty of opportunity for Straily in Korea, and he made 31 starts each in 2020 and '21 going a combined 25-16 with a 3.22 ERA.

"It's a great opportunity to go over there and pick stuff you're going to work on, and then you're going to get 32 starts to work on that type of thing as long as you stay healthy," he said. "And so I was over there with a mindset of 'I'm trying to come back to the states.' I went over there with the goals in mind, and I would say we absolutely smashed the goals and here we are. "

One goal that Straily hopes to see come to fruition this year is having his 4-year-old son, Jaxon, get to see him pitch in a big league game. Jaxon was too young to remember watching his dad pitch in 2019.

With Madison Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Luke Weaver looking like locks for the rotation, that leaves the fifth spot open -- with Tyler Gilbert and Straily as leading contenders for the fifth spot.

If he makes the rotation, Straily would become the second member of it to have pitched in Korea. Kelly did as well, and Arizona's decision to sign the right-hander prior to the 2019 season has paid off in a big way. That's something the organization would love to see repeated with Straily.

But first, Straily will have to win a job. Fighting for a roster spot is nothing new for a 24th-round pick, and it's something that is now second nature to him.

"I don't know anything different," Straily said. "I've gotten really good over the years of just being where my feet are and just trying to be the best version of myself right there. And so I've met a lot of great people in this game, seen a lot of beautiful places. The game has taken me around the world, and I'm really proud of my career and proud of my journey. I have a lot of bullets left to give this game."