Yeah, it’s only been one start, but I want to talk up Ian Kennedy… something I’ve actually been doing since he was traded from the New York Yankees to the Arizona Diamondbacks this past off-season.
The right-handed Kennedy made his National League debut on Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres in Arizona. He gave up three runs (all in the second inning on a three-run homer to Scott Hairston) and six hits but showed big-league stuff by striking out eight batters. The key for Kennedy is clear: command the fastball. With a fastball in the 86-91 mph range, it sat right around 87-89 mph on Wednesday night. The majority of his eight strikeouts came on change-ups (four), followed by fastballs (three) and a curveball (one). This is encouraging because it shows that Kennedy had two out-pitches going on the night, which will really help him given his average fastball velocity.
The bulk of his six hits allowed came on the fastball (four). Kennedy has thrown a slider in the past but I did not see much of one against the Padres; he utilized a fourth pitch, but it looked to be more of a cutter, which caused a number of lazy fly balls. In this game, his control looked better than his command and he was consistently around the strike zone.
There are certainly some things to work on for his next start, which will likely come against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ powerful, yet youthful, lineup. Along with improving his fastball command, it would be nice to see Kennedy induce some more ground balls, and also be more economical with his pitches; He had thrown 82 (68% for strikes) after just four innings and finished with 94 pitches thrown. Fittingly, his final out of the game came on a strikeout of another promising, young player in Kyle Blanks.
Kennedy was removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning with the D-Backs trailing 3-1 in the game. It turned out to be a smart move, as pinch-hitter Rusty Ryal singled for Kennedy and later scored in the inning. The D-Backs tied the game up in the fifth and stormed back to win the game 5-3. FYI: Ryal hit was an opposite-field single, and the rookie had an impressive pinch-hit at-bat.
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