Diamondbacks’ Tyler Clippard returns from injured list; Merrill Kelly inches closer

Nick Piecoro
Arizona Republic

Reliever Tyler Clippard returned from the injured list on Monday while fellow veteran right-hander Merrill Kelly appears to be lining up to do the same, perhaps in time to start on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

Clippard has been out since he developed flu-like symptoms early last week. Clippard was placed on the COVID injured list but never tested positive for the virus.

In Clippard’s absence, manager Torey Lovullo used right-hander J.B. Wendelken in the ninth inning on Saturday and Sunday. When asked before Monday’s game, Lovullo said he was unsure if he would immediately thrust Clippard back into the closer’s role.

“He’s got that experience that we love on the back end, but I’ve got to be aware of how he’s been feeling and what he’s been feeling,” Lovullo said. “We’ll probably have a conversation, but what that answer is, I don’t know yet.”

Kelly has been out since testing positive for COVID on August 14. He logged four innings in an Arizona Complex League game on Thursday and followed that with a lengthy bullpen session on Monday at Salt River Fields, Lovullo said.

The Diamondbacks are listed as “TBA” for Wednesday; Lovullo acknowledged that Kelly was “entering into that conversation” to start that night.

Kelly had been the Diamondbacks’ most consistent starter this season and was throwing well before going down, logging a 2.95 ERA in his previous10 starts.

Two-strike threat

Lovullo said that when infielder Andrew Young was sent to Triple-A Reno in late July, the club told him it wanted to see improvement in his two-strike approach. At that point, Young was 5 for 41 (.122) with 33 strikeouts when he reached two strikes.

Young has been much better of late, going 5 for 20 (.250) with eight strikeouts.

“He was challenged with the idea of … fighting through the entire at-bat and taking a little bit off of his swing,” Lovullo said. “Still impacting the baseball, but having the ability to put the ball in play and hit the ball where it has been pitched.”

Lovullo said he has been impressed with Young’s ability to stay up the middle and use the whole field in those counts since returning.

As for his defense, Lovullo said that, too, has improved.

“I think he’s been OK, but I think there’s some room for improvement,” Lovullo said.

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Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or nick.piecoro@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.