Kennedy May Be Poised for Breakout Year
Ian Kennedy with Trenton Thunder 2007

Posted Jan 30, 2010


The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Ian Kennedy with the notion that Kennedy had the potential to become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in the near future and was already good enough to anchor the back end of a big league rotation. Kennedy, who has totaled fewer than 150 innings over the past two seasons combined, is now healthy and may be ready to meet expectations.

Ian Kennedy will enter the 2010 season in some unfamiliar places -- in Phoenix, and in a major league starting rotation. He is embracing both the changes.

Kennedy has a secure hold on the Diamondbacks' No. 4 starter job behind Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Edwin Jackson. A rotation role was never guaranteed in his previous time with the Yankees despite his top prospect status.

"You still have to earn your spot every spring, but it is a little more comforting to know that if you don't do well, you won't lose your job," Kennedy said. "It puts you a little more at ease. But I still have to do the same thing that I know I can do, which is go out and pitch and throw a lot of strikes."

Kennedy was a first-round pick in 2006, part of a young Yankees' cadre that included Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. He has made 12 major league starts in three seasons following his debut on September 1, 2007, but none last year.  An aneurysm near his right biceps cost him most of the season, as he made just four minor league starts and one major league relief appearance.

The D-backs believe his minor league body of work -- 19-6 with a 1.96 ERA in 46 appearances, 43 starts -- is predictive of the type of pitcher he can become.

"His calling card when he was in college was uncommon command and control," D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes said. "You stay with those types of guys. We watched him in the (Arizona) Fall League, and he looked like the same Ian Kennedy we have seen for five, six years. Maybe now was the time to get him."

The D-backs are likely to try to limit Kennedy to between 150 and 170 innings this season, Byrnes said, because of his limited previous experience. It is an approach they took with Max Scherzer in his first full season in 2009 before trading him to Detroit in a package for Jackson at the winter meetings.

SNAKE BYTES

--New/old "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno is to perform at the D-backs' fourth annual "Evening on the Diamond" on April 1, four days before the team opens the regular season with a home game against San Diego, now operated by former agent and D-backs executive Jeff Moorad. The event raises funds for the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and includes a cocktail party and a dinner on the Chase Field grass, at which all players and coaches attend.

--Class A Visalia has designated its California League home game against San Jose on April 21 as a "Haiti Relief Drive" event and will donate all money raised from sales of single-game, group and walkup tickets to UNICEF's relief fund to help Haiti rebuild after the January earthquake there. The Rawhide also plans to accept donations of material goods at the gate prior to the game. "Along with the rest of the world, we realize the magnitude of the relief effort ahead for Haiti," Rawhide president Tom Seidler said. "We are eager to contribute our small part to that effort."

--Former D-back Chad Tracy, who has a house in the Phoenix area, will be able to stay home for spring training after signing a minor league contract with the Cubs that includes a spring training invite. Tracy, one of the first of the original "Baby Backs" to make it to the majors when he arrived in 2004, was a .280 hitter with 78 homers in 704 career games in Arizona. Tracy played for $4.75 million last season, and the D-backs paid him a $1 million buyout on his 2010 option. He will make $900,000 if he makes the Cubs' major league team and could top out at $1,425,000 after incentives.

DIAMOND STAT:
$1.65 million -- The difference between what RHP Edwin Jackson wants and what the D-backs offered in salary arbitration figures. Jackson is seeking $6.25 million, and Josh Byrnes has never before gone to an arbitration hearing with a player.

QUOTABLE:
"To be able to go into the season with a solid rotation makes a manager smile." -- Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch.


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