Phillies Notebook: Kyle Kendrick has a solid grip on spot in Phillies rotation

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kyle Kendrick delivers a pitch in his first start of spring.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kyle Kendrick delivers a pitch in his first start of spring.
Posted: February 28, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The booming ball off the bat of Yankees cleanup hitter Mark Teixeira went foul. So then he took another thundering cut and ripped another pitch to rightfield.

The double brought Ichiro Suzuki in from second as the Yankees quickly scored off Kyle Kendrick to take a first-inning lead at Bright House Field.

A couple of years ago, a few hard-hit balls would have been enough to have people rolling their eyes at another Kendrick start. It might have been enough to derail Kendrick, too.

But the former young, struggling righthander, once the butt of jokes and clubhouse pranks, is suddenly a confident, 28-year-old veteran with a solid place in the Phillies' rotation. Kendrick allowed one run on three hits in two innings, while striking out one and walking none, in his spring debut on Tuesday against the Yankees.

Kendrick, who had come into each of the previous four springs with uncertainty, not knowing where he'd end up, was especially eager to take the mound for the first time in 2013. And he was worried it might not happen with a pouring rain and tornado watch in the area throughout the morning.

"I felt like I was really going to be upset if we got rained out today," Kendrick said. "I felt like that Little League kid that just wanted to get out there. I used to cry when games used to get rained out. That's how I felt today. I just really wanted to pitch. I was happy. I was excited. I'm glad I got to do it."

Despite the boyish charm, Kendrick has matured into a dependable member of the pitching staff in the last two seasons. Before the final 2 months of last season, Kendrick was used predominantly as a swingman, working both as a long man in the bullpen and as a spot starter when a regular starter got hurt.

But after the Phillies traded Joe Blanton to the Los Angles Dodgers in early August, Kendrick saw a job opening and jumped for it. Kendrick went 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 starts to finish off the season. He held opponents to a .226 batting average, .266 OBP and .651 OPS while striking out 51 and walking 14 in 70 1/3 innings.

"Knowing that he was starting, that always helps," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "His confidence grew. He became very clean and consistent with his delivery. He was able to repeat pitches. The [changeup] became a real good pitch for him. Of course, he's got that great sinker. He's got a very serviceable cutter and slider. He's starting to grasp the idea of how to use them all, and who he is and what he is as a pitcher."

Kendrick wasted no time in his quest to keep the rotation job. He said he began working out at the Carpenter Complex regularly 2 weeks before Halloween, not long after the 2012 season ended.

He beat Roy Halladay to camp - the rotation's elder statesman and workout legend didn't check in until December, according to Kendrick.

"He's got a gym in his house," Kendrick said with wide eyes. "I don't have that yet. I would love that."

One step at a time, Kyle.

Utley gets a rest

And on the fourth day of Grapefruit League games, Chase Utley was scratched from the starting lineup.

But Utley's knees are fine - or as fine as two bad knees of a 34-year-old athlete will be. Manager Charlie Manuel decided to take the second baseman out of the lineup minutes before the game because of the field conditions.

Heavy rain pounded Bright House Field on Tuesday morning as the greater Tampa Bay area was under a tornado watch. After inspecting the field with third-base coach Ryne Sandberg, Manuel figured it didn't make much sense to test Utley's legs on a potentially slick surface.

"When I had walked out there right after they took the tarp off, I saw the water had been dumped in that area there [in shallow rightfield]," Manuel said. "[And] it was still cloudy and stuff, so I just didn't play him."

Utley isn't on the travel roster for Wednesday's game in Fort Myers, which isn't surprising, since veterans are often given a breather on lengthy bus trips. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is also staying behind.

Phillers

Top hitting prospect Tommy Joseph hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh inning to lead the Phils to a 4-3 victory over the Yankees. Joseph, who could be the heir apparent to Carlos Ruiz, came over in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco in July . . . Mike Adams is slated to make his Phillies debut on Thursday, when they host the Atlanta Braves in Clearwater. Adams, who signed a 2-year, $12 million deal this winter to be the team's setup man, underwent surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome after the 2012 season . . . Chad Durbin pitched a scoreless fifth inning in his first appearance in a Phillies uniform since 2010 . . . John Lannan will make his Phillies debut on Wednesday, when he starts against the Minnesota Twins. Lannan signed a 1-year, $2.5 million deal to join the Phillies' rotation in December . . . Jimmy Rollins will leave camp Saturday to begin work with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: philly.com/HighCheese

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