If you think Joe Blanton feels like the forgotten man in the Phillies’ rotation, imagine how Kyle Kendrick is feeling.
Kendrick, who won double-digit games in three of the last four years, was nowhere to be found at Monday’s fab five press conference in Clearwater. With Rich Dubee already announcing that Blanton will be his fifth starter, Kendrick finds himself in limbo once again. Will he be a starter, as he was 31 times last season and 83 times over his four-year career? Or will he be coming out of the bullpen, as he’s done just 10 times in four years for the Phils? For what it’s worth, Kendrick has a 4.75 ERA as a starter and a 3.32 ERA as a reliever, working with an inherited runner just once. He has not pitched in the minors since 2009, when he went 9-7 with a 3.34 ERA in 24 starts for Lehigh Valley. The Phillies have already said that Kendrick, along with rookie right-hander Vance Worley, will be stretched out as starters this spring.
Ideally, the Phillies would love for Kendrick to make the bullpen cut and slide into Chad Durbin’s old spot, but it’s not that simple. Kendrick pitches to contact and relies heavily on his defense, while Durbin can mix in more strikeouts, making him more suited to handle inherited runners. Opponents have hit a lifetime .309 vs. Kendrick in his first 25 pitches of a game and .281 thereafter. His struggles against lefties are well documented, with righties hitting .254/.291/.422 off him and lefties .312/.367/.535. Then again, Durbin was also crushed by lefties last season (.324/.407/.529). An ideal middle reliever is someone like Jose Contreras, who uses his splitter to neutralize both right-handers (.256/.302/.355) and left-handers (.253/.340/.414).
What’s next for Kendrick? Dubee, in so many words, has already handed him the mop, saying Sunday that he sees him as “a swing-type guy, a bullpen piece, a long guy, a spot starter.”
- Written for Beerleaguer by Drew Silverman