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30-year-old Kelly wins MLB debut as D-backs rout Padres 10-3

April 2, 2019
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Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Merrill Kelly delivers to a San Diego Padres batter during the first inning of a baseball game in San Diego, Monday, April 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — It was a night of memorable debuts for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Merrill Kelly paused for a moment before making his first big league appearance at age 30.

“I took a minute before I threw the first pitch and took in the stadium, took in the surroundings, just so I can have that memory before I stepped on the rubber,” the right-hander said. “Once I got going, once I stepped on the rubber, it was game time.”

Kelly threw six strong innings for the victory and benefited from an offensive outburst started by Adam Jones’ leadoff homer to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Diego Padres 10-3 Saturday night.

A few hours later, the bullpen gate opened and right-hander Jon Duplantier, 24, jogged in to throw his first big league pitches when he took over for Kelly starting the bottom of the seventh.

“I wasn’t nervous jogging in. I was more nervous warming up,” Duplantier said. “As soon as I walked through the door, hit the pad and took about three steps before it was like, ‘OK, I’m not going to fall, I’m not going to trip,’ because I’ve got big feet and every now and then the turf monster will get me, but he didn’t get me today.

“Took about three steps and I just couldn’t stop looking up, just taking it all in like everybody was encouraging me to do. It was just pure joy. I felt like a child, you know, like, ‘Hey, go play, run free. Go play. These people are watching you.’ I was just so happy,” he said.

“It was a special day for him and Jon, two guys making their major league debut,” manager Tory Lovullo said. “You’d never suspect it by their mound presence, their poise and their ability to attack hitters.”

Padres rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hit his first big league homer, a two-run shot in the sixth that landed at the base of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field.

Kelly (1-0), who grew up in Arizona, joined the Diamondbacks on a two-year contract in December after spending four seasons with the SK Wyverns in Korea. That followed five seasons in the Tampa Bay organization. He became the first player with no big league experience to play in Korea and return directly to the majors.

Kelly held San Diego to three runs and five hits while striking out three and walking two.

Kelly started strong thanks to his defense. Left fielder David Peralta made a diving catch of a liner by leadoff batter Ian Kinsler, and center fielder Ketel Marte made a sliding catch of Eric Hosmer’s liner.

San Diego didn’t get a hit until Franchy Cordero, who entered in a double switch in the third inning, singled to right in the bottom of the inning. Cordero had an infield single in the fifth that hit off Kelly, who stayed in the game.

Kelly faltered in his final inning, allowing Hosmer’s double and Manny Machado’s single before Franmil Reyes hit a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Tatis, the team’s prized prospect and the son of the former big leaguer, drove the first pitch he saw for his first homer.

“I enjoyed it as soon as I hit it and it was a pretty decent walk around the bases,” Tatis said. “Took that one out of the way, first one, here we go, a lot more to come.”

Matt Strahm (0-1) had a rough season debut for the Padres, allowing five runs and eight hits while walking two in just 2 2/3 innings. The left-hander is in the rotation this year after making five starts as an opener last year and 41 appearances overall as he was eased back from surgery on his torn left patellar tendon the previous season while with Kansas City.

“I was just getting a little too much plate and they were taking advantage of it.” Strahm said. “They clearly read the scouting report that I’m aggressive with my fastball and jumped on it early, so I found myself pitching behind there a little bit.”

Jones, who played at San Diego’s Morse High, homered to left on Strahm’s third pitch, his third, and David Peralta added an RBI double. Eduardo Escobar hit an RBI single in the second and the Diamondbacks chased Strahm in the third on Nick Ahmed’s sac fly and Alex Avila’s run-scoring single.

The Diamondbacks piled on with four runs in the fifth against Robbie Erlin, who allowed four hits before getting an out.

GRAND CANYON BALLERS

Kelly is the fifth Diamondbacks player to play high school and college ball in Arizona, joining Jake Barrett, Tuffy Gosewisch, Cody Ransom and Ed Vosberg. Kelly grew up in Scottsdale and attended Desert Mountain High, Yavapai College and Arizona State.

UP NEXT

Diamondbacks: RHP Zack Greinke (0-1, 17.18) is scheduled to start Tuesday night. He’s looking to bounce back from opening day, when he allowed seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 12-5 loss at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Padres: LHP Eric Lauer (1-0, 0.00) threw six shutout innings in an opening day victory against San Francisco.

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