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Merrill Kelly hopes to be back for the final spurt in mid-August

Longtime Arizona Diamondbacks co-ace Merrill Kelly spoke to reporters and then fans at the Diamondbacks Watch Party at Guy Fieri's DTPHX Kitchen + Bar on Friday night. He spoke at length about rehabbing his shoulder injury and wanting to remain a Diamondback for life.

After pitching more and deeper last year than at any other time in his career, Merrill Kelly picked up right where he left off at the start of the 2024 season. In his first four starts, Kelly pitched 24.2 innings and had a 2.19 ERA. He allowed 17 hits, six runs, six walks and 21 strikeouts.

However, while throwing between starts in late April, he strained his right shoulder and was placed on the injured list on April 23.

Since then, he's been rehabbing at Salt River Fields and working hard to get back into shape. He's now throwing up to 75 feet as the team slowly eases him back onto the mound.

When asked for his thoughts on the injury, Kelly said: “I thought when I went down the process would have been a little shorter… but obviously the pictures showed something different. I'm taking it day by day, but so far everything's been good.”

“It's the first time I've really had to deal with an injury like this. The first time I've had to deal with soft tissue issues… You don't want to have too many expectations and look too far into the future. When you start playing this game, I think you set yourself up for disappointment.”

“Originally we thought it would be some kind of All-Star break, but the way things are going, it's probably a little later. In my opinion I hope to be able to travel to Tampa, Miami and Boston. I've been wanting to make this trip all year and it seems like now is the perfect time for me to return, but of course things can change over time.”

That road trip against the Rays, Marlins and Red Sox will take place from August 16-25. That's about a month after the All-Star break and would give him about six weeks to help the D-backs in their final push for the playoffs.

This is his first soft tissue injury in his 15-year professional baseball career. “This is the first time I've gone through this, other than the blood clot we had last year, but now I really feel like I don't necessarily earn my stripes.”

“I just had a few different shoulder issues that were straining. It was just the perfect storm. I've been lucky in my career.”

He believes the strain is due to the “heavy workload of the last two years… last year I obviously made a lot of throws, so it was probably a combination of a lot of throws and my slow age. I'm kind of the oldest on the team right now. I'll be 36 in October.”

He takes it in his stride that everyone gets injured at some point, but he is grateful that his injury was not too serious.

He now spends his days at Salt River Fields, “whether it's soft tissue work or just drills…and if I'm throwing that day, I get ready to throw, do all my pre-throw stuff, warm up, and then we go throw and I usually finish it off with some running and weight lifting…we have a big red light bed…that's supposed to be good for you. I don't know if it does much, but I do it every day, just crossing every T and dotting every I, so there's definitely a lot of work that goes into it.”

Below, Kelly explains what it means to her to be able to sleep in her own bed every night thanks to her involvement with the Diamondbacks and the fact that their spring training stadium is in Arizona.

“My friends and family are here, so it all feels that way. Obviously nobody wants to be in rehab, but I think it's a little bit, like I said, a little bit of a blessing in disguise because I don't get to spend as many summers with my family, my daughter and our friends. So it's weird being on the other side of the coin at home.”

He went on to talk about how much he wants to stay with the Arizona Diamondbacks. “That's one of the reasons I love it here in Arizona. That's one of the reasons I keep trying to sign and convince them to sign more of me. I don't want to go anywhere.”

“This is my home. You know I want to stay here as long as possible.”

When asked if the front office knew, Merrill Kelly replied, “They know, they know.”

A fan asked him if he could pitch for two or three more years, hopefully with the D-backs.

“For the next two or three years, you'll have to talk to Mike Hazen about it. I don't have that much power. I don't know that question as well as I'd like to. If it were up to me, I'd be here for the next five years. My goal was to get to 10 years.”

He shared that he needs to find a place where he can play “seven, eight, nine, 10 years” to fulfill his dream of playing 10 years. Kelly wants to stay with the D-backs.

“I'd love to do it as a Diamondback. I'd love to be a Diamondback my whole career and especially as a native Arizonan, I'd love to stay here as long as possible, but that's a little bit out of my pay grade right now, so we'll get back to that next year.”

Merrill Kelly has a team option for the 2025 season. Assuming he finishes the season healthy and picks up where he left off, GM Mike Hazen and his team will likely use that option. He will be 36 next year. It's a $7 million option for 2025.

If he performs well next year, there's a good chance the Arizona Diamondbacks will agree to a second contract extension with Merrill Kelly. It will likely be a similar deal to the last one, where he gets two guaranteed years due to his age and two option years so the D-backs have control over future game shortening or injuries.

One thing is certain: Merrill Kelly wants to end his career as a member of his hometown team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Anna Harden

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