Kelly to pitch for Team USA in 2023 World Baseball Classic

November 17th, 2022

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D-backs right-hander Merrill Kelly accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA in next spring's World Baseball Classic.

"I'm really, really excited about it," Kelly said. "I'm honored by the fact that when I look around at the roster of who's committed already, and it's essentially an All-Star team, especially on the position-player side. They haven't announced all the pitchers yet. So I haven't seen who else is going to join the rotation with me, but you know, looking at the infield and looking at our lineup, it's pretty special. The fact that my name is involved with [Bryce] Harper and [Mike] Trout and [Paul] Goldschmidt and [Nolan] Arenado … the fact that they wanted me to play is pretty cool to me."

Kelly, who signed a contract extension with the D-backs during Spring Training, was 13-8 with a 3.37 ERA while pitching 200 1/3 innings in 2022. The 34-year-old was the National League Pitcher of the Month for July, when he went 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA.

Kelly said the decision to pitch for Team USA will not change the way he prepares for Spring Training, despite the fact that he will be pitching in games that have more on the line in March with Team USA than the usual spring games.

"I've been told that kind of wherever we're at in spring with pitch counts and innings is going to be honored at Team USA," Kelly said. "So whatever I'm at -- if I'm up to three [innings] and 45 [pitches] and I'm throwing against Team Mexico, then that's what I'll throw."

The D-backs signed Kelly out of Korea prior to the 2019 season, and while the signing didn't get much attention at the time, it has been a huge plus for Arizona.

In his four years with the D-backs, Kelly has turned into a quality, reliable workhorse pitcher, and he has earned the opportunity to pitch for his first USA national team.

"If you were to tell me in 2014 or 2015 when I went over to Korea that I'd be playing for Team USA when I'm 34, I mean, I probably would have laughed at you," Kelly said. "I probably would have told you that you're insane. So it's definitely been a journey. I'm grateful for it."