John Smallwood: Kendrick starting to look like a permanent member of rotation

Kyle Kendrick's recent success should give him a legitimate shot at being a full-time starter in 2013.
Kyle Kendrick's recent success should give him a legitimate shot at being a full-time starter in 2013. (ED HILLE / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 31, 2012

CAN YOU TRUST Kyle Kendrick to be one of the guys in 2013?

Barring an offseason trade, the Phillies will again headline their starting rotation with the trio of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

You figure Vance Worley, who was just shut down for season-ending elbow surgery, has the inside track to the fourth spot in the rotation, but it's hardly a lock.

Worley had a disappointed season, finishing 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA in 23 starts. That is some distance from the promise Worley showed last season, when he was 11-3 in 21 starts with a 3.02 ERA and finished third in voting for National League Rookie of the Year.

There will be at least one and possibly two spots up for grabs in the Phillies' rotation for 2013.

Is Kendrick a guy the Phillies have to consider? On Thursday against the New York Mets, Kendrick was dynamite for his fourth consecutive start.

He pitched 7 2/3 innings, scattering seven hits and surrendering just two runs - both solo home runs. He walked none and struck out six, Of his 86 pitches, 63 were strikes.

With Raul Valdes closing out the eighth inning and Jonathan Papelbon recording his 30th save, Kendrick posted his fourth straight win.

It's the second longest winning streak of his career, trailing the five straight he won in 2008.

And it's not as if Kendrick has just benefited from some crooked-number run production by the Phillies bats.

The 28-year-old righthander has been brilliant during the streak.

In his last four starts, Kendrick has pitched 29 1/3 innings, giving up only four earned runs for an ERA of 1.23. He's walked three, while striking out 22.

Extrapolate the numbers of his last four starts over a full season and Kendrick would be at the top of the conversation for the National League Cy Young Award.

Of course, baseball doesn't work like that.

But Kendrick will be a regular in the rotation until the end of the season, and if he keeps pitching as he has, how can he not be in the conversation for 2013?

"Of course, he can," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Right now, he's feeling real good about himself. I think his confidence level is up.

"Anytime you pitch like that, have four good starts, if you pitch like that and stay consistent, I'd say, yeah, he has a good chance to stay in the rotation. To me, you can pitch yourself into the rotation."

When you consider that 117 of his 158 career appearances in the major leagues have been as a starting pitcher, Kendrick is more than just a reliever who comes in as a spot starter.

In fact, Kendrick was a starter when he first came up in 2007 - with 83 of his first 93 appearances being starts. He made 30 starts in 2008 and 31 in 2010.

But last season with the Phillies having their four aces, Kendrick fell into the role of long reliever and spot starter. Even when Roy Oswalt went down with an extended injury, Worley, then a rookie, beat out Kendrick for the spot in the rotation.

Kendrick was in the same role to start this season.

But with Joe Blanton traded after the Phillies fell out of contention, Kendrick got a reliable spot in the rotation and has made the most of it.

"You never know," said Kendrick, who has been through enough ups and downs and ins and outs to not take anything for granted. "Anything can happen.

"I'm just trying to go about my business and keep getting my work done. I don't know if I'm going anywhere, but you have to keep getting outs, as a starter pitch deep into games, and give the team a chance to win.

"If I keep doing that, I'll be starting."

After giving up a home run to Mike Baxter to begin the game and a solo shot to Scott Hairston in the second, Kendrick settled in against the Mets.

"You're going to give up runs," Kendrick said. "If it's two in the first or two in the sixth, it's still two runs. You try to keep them there.

"You don't want to give up runs early, but if it happens, you keep battling and continue the game. You have to trust your stuff, work with what you have and know what kind of pitcher you are. I've kind of come to that point to trust in myself."

If Kendrick keeps going like this, he has to be considered for a full-time spot in the rotation in 2013, doesn't he?


Contact John Smallwood at smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/JohnSmallwood.

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