Merrill Kelly has a 200-inning milestone on his radar screen

PHOENIX – With the Arizona Diamondbacks’ season in the fading days, players are left to reach personal plateaus. For right-hander Merrill Kelly, there is much to accomplish, and that centers on a highlight every starting pitcher seeks to reach.

With two starts remaining in the 2022 season, and both on the road, Kelly has an opportunity to reach 200 innings. With a mark of 13-7 and 3.13 ERA, and 189.2 innings in 31 starts this season, he is on the mark to be the first for an Arizona pitcher since Zack Greinke reached this number.

While achieving a plateau such as 200 is significant, this has become increasingly rare. That’s because of the emphasis on specific roles and the fact that staters generally do not last deep into games.

For Kelly, reaching 200 innings is as central as it is significant.

“Reaching 200 is pretty important to me, to be honest with you,” Kelly said after this final Chase Field start on Sept. 25. “For the past few years, you guys have heard me talk on what prides me as a starting pitcher and that’s the case. I try and get as many innings as I can. I feel that 200 mark is a big one for starting pitchers, especially in today’s game. I feel many guys do not hit it as they used to in this day and age. The way the bullpens are set up, and the way pitch counts for starters is handled, I think, are some reasons why not as many guys get to reach 200.”

Aside from a personal milestone, Kelly achieved notable success this season. In July, he was named the National League pitcher of-the-month and recorded a 4-0 record with a 1.31 ERA for that month.

With those two starts remaining, Kelly is on pace to reach 15 wins and that would be a career-best in the major leagues. He went 16-7 for SK in the Korea League in 2017. In four previous seasons with Arizona, he won 13 twice (in 2019 and 2021).

“It’s a goal every year,” he said of reaching 200 innings. “For me, that means I’m going deep into games. As a starting pitcher, I go into every season with my mind set on 200 innings. I did 200 in Korea, but that’s a different animal than here in the big leagues. I would rather do this here than over there.”

For SK in the Korea League, Kelly passed the milestone when he hurled 200.1 innings in 2016. That season, Kelly, who will be 34-year-old on Oct. 14, went 9-8 and a 3.68 ERA in 31 starts.

Over the past decade, two Arizona starters have reached 200 innings. Current reliever Ian Kennedy was a starter on the Diamondbacks playoff team of 2011 and recorded 200 plus innings in 2011 (222.0) and 2012 (208.1). Greinke accomplished the feat twice with Arizona and that’s when he recorded 202.1 innings in 2017 and 207.2 innings in 2018.

“(Kelly) is having a quality season with quality starts and the ability to reach 200 innings,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “When you’re doing that type of stuff, you had many good runs. and he’s been very consistent. It’s probably the consistency and dependability he gives us every fifth day. It all started in spring training and his stuff out of camp was hot.”

To reach the 200 innings achievement, Kelly has those two more starts. His next one will be this Friday night in San Francisco, where he is 3-0 in 2002 and 6-3 overall against the Giants.

“Not sure, maybe they haven’t figured me out,” he said of the success over the Giants. “There are good hitters over there, that’s a big-league team, but that’s where it becomes fun. That’s when they know me, and I know them. That’s the kind of chess game you like. It’s about who will execute better, who will read pitches better, who will guess pitches better. I enjoy that and I don’t know how many times I faced them this year (four times). It makes it more fun.”

Kelly gets that start this Friday night in San Francisco and then his final start is scheduled for next Wednesday, Oct. 5 in Milwaukee.

The 2022 Arizona Diamondbacks minor league players of the year are …before the final home game Sept. 25, position player Corbin Carroll and pitcher Brandon Pfaadt were named as the organization’s players of the year.

Between AA Amarillo and AAA Reno, Carroll hit a combined .303 with 23 homers and 61 RBIs. He was named the 2022 USA TODAY minor league player of the year and the third Arizona player so honored. Previously, Justin Upton (2007) and Paul Goldschmidt (2011) were cited.

Pfaadt went 11-7 and 3.83 ERA with Amarillo and Reno. He recorded 218 strikeouts and became the first minor league pitcher to surpass 200 strikeouts in a season since Brandon Claussen (220) in 2001 in the New York Yankees organization.

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