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Kelly, Duplantier a historic tandem in debuts

One gets the win, the other the save in their first apperances
@SteveGilbertMLB
April 2, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Monday brought a night of big league debuts for the Arizona Diamondbacks -- and a first for Major League Baseball. Merrill Kelly made his first-ever start and Jon Duplantier picked up the save in the D-backs’ 10-3 win over the Padres at Petco Park. Since the save

SAN DIEGO -- Monday brought a night of big league debuts for the Arizona Diamondbacks -- and a first for Major League Baseball.

Merrill Kelly made his first-ever start and Jon Duplantier picked up the save in the D-backs’ 10-3 win over the Padres at Petco Park.

Since the save rule was created in 1969, no teammates had ever both made their Major League debuts on the same night with one earning a win and the other a save.

Let’s start with the starter.

Kelly, a 30-year-old right-hander who was selected by the Rays in the 2010 Draft, spent the past four years playing for the SK Wyverns in the Korean Baseball Organization. The D-backs in December signed him to a two-year contract with a pair of club options, and he became the team’s No. 5 starter.

With his wife, Bre, and a host of friends from Phoenix sitting in the stands, he took the mound Monday looking to help the D-backs snap a two-game losing streak.

“I wish I could say I didn’t have a lot of nerves, but I definitely did,” Kelly said. “Just that first game -- I know it’s amplified because it’s the big leagues, but that first game of the season, first outing, I think it had a little more nerves than usual. I think today was even more than that. I took a minute before I threw the first pitch and kind of took in the stadium, took in the surroundings, just so I could have that memory before I stepped on the rubber. Once I got going, it was good.”

That he was. Kelly carried a shutout into the sixth before the Padres were able to break through for three runs. By that point, it hardly seemed to matter -- the D-backs were already up 9-0.

Adjusting to baseball in the U.S. again has been a challenge for Kelly. The balls are slightly different than they are in Korea, the stadiums are bigger, and the amount of scouting information is far more plentiful.

“It’s really thorough,” Kelly said. “I’m still getting used to all of it. Over in Korea, we had analytics but not to the extent we do here. I’m trying to still feel out what information I think I need, what I don’t think I need. Our team does an unbelievable job of giving us any type of information we could possibly want. It’s been great.”

Then there’s the “closer.”

Duplantier was a starter in the Minor Leagues, but the 24-year-old right-hander, ranked as the D-backs’ second-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, was brought to the big leagues earlier in the day to provide a fresh arm in the bullpen.

With Kelly done after six, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo decided it was time for Duplantier, whose mom and dad had flown in from Houston for the game, to get his turn.

“As soon as I walked through [bullpen] the door, hit the pad and took about three steps, I was like, ‘OK, I’m not going to fall; I’m not going to trip,’” Duplantier said. “Because I got big feet and every now and then, the turf monster will get me. But it didn’t get me today. Got about three steps and just couldn’t stop looking up. Just taking it all in like everybody had encouraged me to do. It was just sheer joy. I felt like a child.”

Maybe so, but he pitched like a grown man, allowing just one hit while striking out two over the final three innings to pick up the save.

“I have to thank all the guys here, the staff here, pretty much everybody that’s had their hand on my back ever since I’ve been drafted,” said Duplantier who was selected in the third round in 2016. “There has been nothing but positivity, nothing but encouragement. Nothing but building up.”

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