Kelly lands final spot in D-backs' rotation

Left-hander Young to bullpen; veteran outfielder Jay makes team

July 19th, 2020

The D-backs' starting rotation was finalized Saturday when right-hander got the news that he had won the No. 5 spot.

That means that , , and will face the Padres in the season-opening four-game series, while Kelly will get the first game of Arizona's series with the Rangers in Arlington.

Kelly’s main competition for the role, lefty , was told that he would make the team as a reliever.

“He’d been throwing the ball really, really well,” manager Torey Lovullo said of Kelly. “My conversation with [Young] was that we’re going to transition him to the bullpen and give him an opportunity to grow and learn what it’s going to take to help this club win games using him that way. He was a great teammate and very receptive to that. It just made the most sense as we were discussing all of our options.”

Kelly was 13-14 with a 4.42 ERA in a team-high 32 starts last year for the D-backs. He received the news that he was making the rotation from pitching coach Matt Herges while warming up to start Saturday’s intrasquad game.

Despite Kelly's success last year, he appeared destined for the bullpen this spring. When veteran Mike Leake elected not to play just before Summer Camp started, however, that gave Kelly an opening -- and he took advantage of it. Several of his teammates praised how he had thrown the ball in intrasquad games.

“I’m excited about it,” Kelly said. “Obviously, I’ve told you guys before, that’s what I love to do. I love having that fifth day as your day. I love the preparation that goes into it and being a starter. I love the idea that you’re given the ball and that game is yours, and you try to go as deep as you possibly can. I’m excited. I’m ready.

"I’ve been training that way, had my mindset the same. Definitely some dominoes fell in the right places for me to be able to take that opportunity. I plan on taking that opportunity and running with it as best I can.”

The rest of the roster is beginning to take shape as well, as Lovullo officially told Archie Bradley that he would be the closer this year.

Bradley was the closer for the second half of last season even as Lovullo stayed away from specifically giving out that title. And while it was expected that Bradley would be the closer this year, Lovullo did not confirm as much until Saturday.

Lovullo also announced that veteran outfielder -- and non-roster invitee -- Jon Jay had made the team. The news was not as positive for outfielder Trayce Thompson or pitchers James Sherfy and Matt Grace, each of whom was reassigned to the team’s satellite camp at Salt River Fields.

Saturday was the D-backs' last day of work at Chase Field before the start of the regular season. They will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday for an exhibition game Sunday night against the Dodgers.

Arizona will face the Dodgers again on Monday, then play intrasquad games on Tuesday at Angel Stadium and Wednesday at PETCO Park. Thursday will be a light workout at PETCO Park in advance of Friday’s season opener against the Padres.

Taylor Widener and Taylor Clarke will start the two exhibition games against the Dodgers, but it’s unclear whether they will be on the Opening Day roster.

First basemen Christian Walker (strained right groin) and Kevin Cron (sore left hamstring) are both battling injuries, and it’s not certain that either will be ready for the opener.

In addition, right-hander Yoan Lopez -- expected to be part of the team’s bullpen -- has been absent from camp for the past few days. Lovullo said he could not comment on why Lopez has not been at camp.

“The roster is not set,” Lovullo said. “It’s definitely not set. I know we made some moves today that will show certain things and certain signs. We still have some players that will go out and earn their spots.”

Up next
The D-backs travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers on Sunday night at 6:10 p.m. MST. Widener will get the start for Arizona. The right-hander had a rough 2019 season for Triple-A Reno, but he was impressive in Summer Camp and he is a candidate to make the team’s bullpen. Lovullo plans on playing most of his regulars for nearly the entire game Sunday as he stretches them out in preparation for Friday’s opener in San Diego.