Kelly leads D-backs' rotation by example with 10-K gem

May 6th, 2023

PHOENIX -- It didn’t occur to until after his work for the night was done. The D-backs right-hander was back in the training room doing his after-start arm care when it sunk in that he and are the only two veterans in Arizona’s rotation.

So when he delivers a start like he did in Friday night's 3-1 win over the Nationals at Chase Field -- when he held Washington to one run over seven innings while striking out 10 -- and when Gallen does what he’s done for much of the season, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the rotation.

“I did think about that for a quick second after the game tonight,” Kelly said. “I think as a team, obviously, you try to look to your veteran guys to kind of set the tone. Obviously, [the young starters are] trying to just get their feet wet and figure out what it means to be in the big leagues and what it means to be a Major League pitcher and have success. So I definitely want to kind of show not only them but the team that we can get some consistent outs and some consistent starts.”

With veteran ’ left oblique injury and the release of Madison Bumgarner, the D-backs’ rotation has three rookies -- , and -- at various stages of their careers.

After making nine starts last year, Henry will make his third start of this season Saturday against the Nationals. Nelson made three starts last year in which he was lights out, pitching to a 1.47 ERA. In six starts this year, he has a 6.39 ERA. Pfaadt, meanwhile, made his big league debut against the Rangers on Wednesday and allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The D-backs believe strongly in the futures of all three, but as with any young player, there are going to be ups and downs and learning experiences along the way.

“I know that those guys are more than capable of doing their jobs,” Kelly said. “I've seen it from Tommy and Ryne. I've heard nothing but good things about Pfaadt.”

But as the three get more experience under their belts and Davies works his way back from his injury, there is even more of a need for Gallen and Kelly to provide innings and consistent outings.

“I don't want to put any extra pressure on 1A and 1B,” manager Torey Lovullo said of Gallen and Kelly. “They just go out there and pitch and assume the responsibilities of being a quality starting pitcher, being the best they possibly can. But it comes in front of three youngsters that are going to be lined up behind them. Those are really important days for us.”

The D-backs look for Gallen and Kelly to lead the young staff not so much by what they say but how they go about their work.

“Hopefully, they see what type of preparation goes into each start, what type of game planning and then ultimately the execution,” Lovullo said.

An example of what the two veterans can provide came the other day when Henry approached Kelly to talk about game planning and what kinds of things the veteran right-hander looks at when breaking down an opposing team’s lineup.

Such conversations are ones both Gallen and Kelly are more than happy to have.

“I mean, anything I can [do to help],” Kelly said. “I'm not typically one that goes and gives advice on my own, but these guys know that I'm always open to any type of conversation, any type of question. So I'm here for these guys -- anything they need to feel more comfortable, feel more confident.”