Five former Diamondbacks pitchers make return trip to Arizona with Kansas City Royals

·4 min read

Before Brad Keller ever thought of putting on a Kansas City Royals uniform, the big right-hander envisioned his major-league dreams coming true at Chase Field with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After all, the Diamondbacks were the team that drafted him into professional baseball.

Keller’s path to the majors began in 2013 when the Diamondbacks selected him in the eighth round of the MLB Draft out of high school. The Georgia native rose to the Double-A level of the minors in the Diamondbacks farm system in 2017. Prior to the 2018 season, the Cincinnati Reds selected Keller in the Rule 5 Draft and traded him to the Royals.

“It was definitely weird,” Keller said of walking into the ballpark on Monday. “It was the goal at one point to pitch here and this by the home park. It was kind of surreal to come back. I still know some of those coaches over there, so I got to talk to them a little bit. It’s cool. I’m excited to come here and play against them and beat them.”

Keller is one of five pitchers currently on the Royals’ major-league roster who were once in the Diamondbacks organization.

The Royals’ two-game set at Chase Field marked their first regular-season visit since 2014.

Monday night’s Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent prior to the 2016 season and stayed until a trade in 2019 sent him to Houston Astros. Gabe Speier spent time in the Diamondbacks farm system after having been acquired via trade from the Atlanta Braves. Relievers Taylor Clarke and Matt Peacock pitched in the majors for the Diamondbacks.

At one point prior to batting practice on Monday, Keller, Clarke, Peacock and Greinke all coincidentally sat side by side on the couches in the visiting clubhouse. It was an unintentional reunion as they all watched one of the day’s early games.

“I think it is a big deal,” Keller said. “We’ve got a lot of guys I played with while I was over there. I think it’s cool for all of us to come back and play here. It’s weird being on different teams, but it’s still pretty cool. I’d rank it up there as one of the top 5 moments, but I’m not pitching here. That would’ve been a lot cooler.”

Clarke, who signed with the Royals as a free agent this winter, had been with the organization since he was drafted in 2015. He spent parts of three seasons in the majors with the club from 2019-21.

Peacock pitched for them as recently as last month prior to the trade that brought him to Kansas City.

“Everybody was nice and went out of their way to say hello,” Peacock said of being back at Chase Field. “It was good seeing everybody.”

Peacock, drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2017, had spent his entire career with the organization. He appeared in major-league games for them on April 17 and April 19.

Peacock described it as weird having players on the opposing team calling his name out during batting practice and seeing coaches and media members again. Though he said he did not have to remind himself not to go to the home clubhouse when he entered the building.

The Royals acquired Peacock on April 24 in exchange for cash. The Diamondbacks had designated him for assignment to make room for an offensive player on their 40-man roster. The Royals front office had been keeping tabs on him for a while and scooped him up before he had a chance to hit waivers.

“I understand how this business works,” Peacock said. “Early in the season with the D-backs there was some offensive struggles and they needed the spot and my name came up. So everything was cordial and no hard feelings. It’s just the way it is.”

Peacock said he’s kept in touch with most of his former teammates with the Diamondbacks as well as several with their Triple-A club. One of the players who gave him a big bear hug was pitcher Madison Bumgarner.

Speier never pitched in a game for the Diamondbacks major-league affiliate, but he was one of the minor league players they brought along for their final spring training games at Chase Field as backups in case of injury or they ran short on pitching.

“I definitely want to pitch against them,” Speier said with a grin.

Speier was with the Diamondbacks from December 2015 until the Royals acquired him along with Elvis Luciano in exchange for Jon Jay in June 2018.

“You know, I was with Detroit as well and I pitched against them,” Speier said. “It’s always a little more adrenaline, a little extra.”

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