Kelly's long-awaited return to mound for Friars short, sweet

Righty needs seven pitches to get three outs in first game action in 10 months

Kelly's long-awaited return to mound for Friars short, sweet

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Normally, Casey Kelly would be all about a nice, orderly and very efficient inning of work.

But 10 months removed from pitching in any kind of game, Kelly wouldn't have minded if his inning on Saturday against the D-backs consisted of more than the seven pitches it took to get three outs.

"It happened so quick," Kelly said. "And I'm in the dugout, like, 'Man, I want to go back out for another inning.' But it was a good start and just build off that."

A good start indeed for Kelly, who is working his way back from reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on April 1, 2013.

Kelly, the prized prospect the team received from the Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez deal in the 2010 offseason, missed all of '13 and then was limited to 20 1/3 innings in '14 when his rehabilitation hit a snag.

Healthy again this spring, he threw a bullpen session last month and suffered a strained groin that set him back two weeks. On Saturday, he got in an actual game for the first time since last May when he was pitching for Double-A San Antonio.

Yes, the butterflies were there. Even for a Cactus League game. The statistics might not count, but the moment certainly will.

"I think just more anxious to get back out there. And once I started running in, that adrenaline rush, I haven't felt that in a while. It was good to get that back," said Kelly, who had some family actually in Arizona by happenstance to see him pitch.

Starting the eighth inning, Kelly got a fly ball out to left field. Cliff Pennington tested him with a bunt out in front of the plate on the third-base side that he fielded cleanly and threw to first base for the out. The final out saw him cover first base as first baseman Cody Decker made a diving play to smother a ball, then flip to Kelly for the final out.

"I would say that's a top-10 play. It should be a No. 1," Kelly said of Decker's play.

San Diego manager Bud Black liked everything he saw from Kelly's short stint.

"Good movement to the fastball, some life down in the zone. His delivery looked good, ball was coming out of his hand just fine," Black said. "He was excited to pitch. It's been a long time for Casey in a Major League game.

"He's an active, healthy pitcher right now and that's where he needs to be to continue to vie for a spot back in the Major Leagues."

Kelly reached the big leagues late in 2012, winning his debut at Petco Park against the Braves on August 27. That's a distant memory now for Kelly, who is fixated more on what's ahead of him -- the good that's ahead of him.

"Everything felt good today, and that was the biggest thing, coming out healthy," he said. "I'll take today how it is and see what happens when I come in tomorrow."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.