Diamondbacks' young pitchers stepping up in Kelly's absence

Ryne Nelson takes the mound vs the Los Angeles Angels
Ryne Nelson takes the mound vs the Los Angeles Angels / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Since Merrill Kelly landed on the IL with a blood clot in his leg, questions surrounded the D-backs' rotation. In recent starts, the young pitchers in this staff have answered the call.

Many expect the D-backs to add another arm by the deadline, and while a move would certainly help make this team into a playoff contender, the lower half of the starting rotation has become a surprising bright spot on the roster. While 1st-time all-star and Cy Young Contender Zac Gallen remains the ace of this squad, back-to-back 4-run performances have raised his ERA to a (still respectable) 3.15.

Surprising as it may be, the roles have flipped in the last two-week stretch for the Diamondbacks. Merrill Kelly remains sidelined and Zac Gallen picks up a loss, giving up 8 earned runs over his last 2 starts, while young guns Ryne Nelson and Tommy Henry have begun to figure things out.

Even Zach Davies appears to have shaken off his three abysmal performances, pitching a 7 inning shutout against the Rays and keeping the team alive for 5.2 innings in a long-ball match against the Mets.

LHP Tommy Henry failed to reach 5 innings in his first two starts in the month of June. Since then, he's allowed only 4 ER in his last 3 starts, picking up a pair of wins and a 16/5 K/BB in 18.1 IP. Henry has steadily lowered his ERA to just above 4.00, despite hovering around 5.00 for the first half of the season.

The biggest improvement to Tommy's game, however, comes from his ability to stay calm and deliver through innings even when in trouble. In his last three starts, Henry has allowed 23 baserunners, while only scoring four, with two coming off of solo home runs.

Henry's secondary-pitch arsenal and cool, technical approach add a much-needed dimension to the D-backs' rotation. While his spot had been relatively safe due to the lack of left-handers on the team, his ability to fight through gritty innings and strand baserunners with his increasing-usage changeup and curveball could become a valuable asset and make him a solid 4-5 guy in the D-backs' pitching rotation.

While Tommy Henry's development has been steadily gaining traction all season, RHP Ryne Nelson has truly flipped his own narrative in recent starts.

Nelson came into June with an ugly 5.40 ERA, and after giving up another 5 runs in a loss to the Phillies--his second in 3 starts--many questioned whether or not manager Torey Lovullo would offer Ryne another shot to keep his place in the rotation.

Nelson's bombs-away fastball approach had allowed opponents to hit near the .300 mark against him, failing to create whiffs or soft contact.

However, in Ryne's last two starts he's gone 14.1 IP 6H 2ER with a 12/3 K/BB in two quality start wins. His biggest improvement coming from his ability to get quick outs, as he threw under 90 pitches in two 7-inning+ starts.

In a gritty 3-1 victory against the Angels in Anaheim, Nelson faced Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani a total of 6 times. Nelson struck them out 4 of the 6 ABs, allowing one total baserunner on a BB to Trout. While

Ryne surely has work to do, he has performed very well when the D-backs were in desperate need of some lower-rotation support.

Don't worry, Zach Davies, we haven't forgotten about you: despite three 6+ run performances that D-backs fans would love to forget, Davies seems to have turned a corner as well, going 12.2 innings with only 4 earned runs, including a shutout 7 against the Rays in his last two starts. Unfortunately, Davies picked up two no-decisions, and the D-backs' offense and bullpen failed to deliver in those games.

The future of the D-backs' pitching rotation looked bleak--especially with Brandon Pfaadt continuously getting lit up in his two brief MLB stints--but the young arms in the starting rotation have begun to show their potential.

Tommy Henry and Ryne Nelson are 4-0 in their last four starts delivering four straight Quality Starts. Each has their own issues to deal with, but if these two are the worst the D-backs rotation has to offer, and they continue to improve, the team will be in good standing.

With Merrill Kelly on the IL until after the all-star break, and Zac Gallen delivering some uncharacteristically shaky performances, the D-backs are lucky to be able to finally rely on their younger pitchers to give the team a chance to win--taking pressure off the twin aces.