Merrill Kelly (35, Arizona), who played for SK Wyverns (currently SSG Landers) in the past, has been virtually confirmed as a selection for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) final.
After confirming their advance to the WBC finals in two consecutive tournaments on the 20th (Korean time), USA national baseball team coach Mark DeRosa said in an official interview, “I think it’s Kelly’s day. I will try,” he replied.
Previously, the United States defeated Cuba 14-2 in the 2023 WBC semifinals held at Londipor Park in Miami, Florida, USA, aiming for two consecutive championships following 2017. The final will be held at the same place on the 22nd against the Japan-Mexico winners.
Unlike the lineup lined with MVPs, the starting lineup with no Cy Young Award pitchers has always been considered a weakness of the United States. Among them, Adam Wainwright and Miles Mycholas (above St. Louis) shared 4 innings each in the game against Venezuela by Lance Lynn (Chicago White Sox) and the game against Cuba that day, leaving Kelly, Kyle Freeland (Colorado), and Brady Singer (Kansas City).
Among the remaining three starting pitchers, Kelly is the most reliable player. Kelly has kept Arizona’s starting rotation for the fourth consecutive year after retrying for the majors in 2019. Last year, he recorded a career high with a 3.37 earned run average, 13 wins, 8 losses, and 177 strikeouts in 200⅓ innings in 33 games. On the other hand, Freeland recorded 9-11 in 31 games with an ERA of 4.53, even considering that it uses Coors Field, a hitter-friendly stadium. Singer recorded an average ERA of 3.23 with 10 wins and 5 losses in 27 games last year.
If that happens while the starting pitch is likely, Kelly will peak the KBO League reverse export myth. In the meantime, players such as Eric Thames (former NC, retired) and Chris Flexen (former Doosan, now Seattle) who grew up in the KBO League and then challenged themselves to the major leagues appeared one after another. However, there has never been a case where he consistently proved his skills and was selected for the US national team like Kelly.
Kelly was one of the common minor league prospects who hadn’t even stepped on the big league stage before joining SK in 2015. He went to Korea at the age of 26 and went 48-32 with an ERA of 3.86 in 119 games over four years. In 2018, his final year, he led SK to win the Korean Series and achieved the beauty of success. Until he signed a 2+2 year, up to $14.5 million contract with Arizona ahead of the 2019 season, expectations for him were 4 starts. However, he was the only Arizona starter to play full-time, effectively serving as the first starter. In this situation, the club exercised all the club options for two years, and gave it a two-year, $18 million extension starting this year ahead of the 2022 season. 스포츠토토
Kelly gave all the credit to Korea. Kelly, whom I met at spring camp in the US last month, said, “Korea means a lot to me. Going to Korea is the best decision of my life and the people I met there are very special to me. It’s been a long journey to get to where I am now, but it means a lot to me. I can’t replace it with anything.”