Phillies Notebook: Kendrick auditioning

Posted: July 31, 2014

NEW YORK - Regardless of whether he is consumed with it or if he's able to ignore it altogether, Kyle Kendrick is auditioning each time he takes the mound in the final 2 months of the season.

Scouts are obviously out and about this time of year to help their respective teams find players to help for the stretch run and postseason. But they also have an eye on players like Kendrick who will become free agents this winter.

They'll watch those players, too, and file reports that will go a long way into determining whether their front office will pursue that player in November, December and January.

Kendrick makes his 22nd start of the season this afternoon at Citi Field. The majority of his first 21 starts have been forgettable: he's 5-10 with a 4.87 ERA.

Among 93 qualifying starters in baseball, Kendrick's ERA ranks 88th. His 1.35 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) ranks 77th and his .757 opponents' OPS ranks 81st.

He still has 10 to 12 starts to salvage his season and impress potential employers, but it's safe to say Kendrick's first 4 months has left a lot to be desired.

"Obviously, going into free agency you want to have the best year of your career," Kendrick said. "But this is a game where guys are getting paid a lot of money that I'm facing, too."

Kendrick said he thought more about his contract last year, when he was wrapping up a 2-year, $7.5 million deal and heading into his final arbitration year. He has kept the focus this year on start to start, day to day.

But it's almost impossible for players in their walk years to not be affected one way or another. Some can use it for motivation (Jayson Werth and Aaron Rowand come to mind), others can let it creep into their head too often, prolonging slumps in down years (Shane Victorino).

"And [Victorino] still got a good deal," a hopeful Kendrick said of his former teammate, who scored a 3-year, $39 million contract from Boston two winters ago.

"We're human," Kendrick said of free-agent thoughts. "It's definitely there. I don't talk about it or think about it but your numbers are going to be what they are. I'm going to have a job somewhere. I'll be in the big leagues somewhere next year. And if it's on a 1-year deal, I'll be fine with that. I'm only going to be 30 next year. Whatever happens, who knows. Joe Blanton got 2 years and 15 [million] from Anaheim."

Kendrick also brought up former Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes.

Hughes was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 30 games with New York last season. Among the 107 pitchers who threw at least 140 innings last season, only five had higher ERAs than Hughes.

Hughes, who is 2 years younger than Kendrick, still received a nice free-agent paycheck last winter, getting a 3-year, $24 million deal with Minnesota.

"I think if I can stay healthy, eat up innings and finish up strong, we'll see what happens," said Kendrick, who turns 30 next month. "I kind of stopped worrying about things in the future. I'm just worried about today and my next start and let things happen how they will."

Kendrick is the second longest-tenured pitcher on the Phillies' roster, behind Cole Hamels. But he only returned to full-time status in the rotation 2 years ago this week, when the Phillies traded soon-to-be free agent Blanton to the Dodgers.

In Kendrick's first 31 starts after taking over for Blanton, he went 15-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 195 innings. But in the next 32 starts, he's gone 7-17 with a 5.49 ERA in 188 2/3 innings.

If nothing else, Kendrick has proven to be durable over that time. But his inconsistency has hurt the Phillies in the last calendar year, in more ways than one.

In addition to him failing to help his team win regularly, Kendrick currently isn't a commodity they can trade and expect to get much in return this week. Of course, Kendrick has also hurt his own earning power, too.

"It just hasn't been a great year," Kendrick said. "I still have 2 months to finish strong."

Castillo workout

The Phillies held a private workout in Clearwater, Fla., yesterday for Cuban free-agent outfielder Rusney Castillo.

The 27-year-old Castillo, who hits from the right side, is the latest prized Cuban defector in a recent run of successful players, following the path or Yoenis Cespedes, Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. According to Baseball America, Castillo "wowed" scouts with his bat in a workout at the University of Miami over the weekend.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. wasn't available for comment, but manager Ryne Sandberg has done some reconnaissance work on Castillo.

"I saw a little bit of video of him," Sandberg said, not referring to yesterday's workout. "He's 5-10 and 210, 215. Kind of [built like] like Marlon [Byrd]. A Marlon-Puig combination for a centerfielder . . . He looked pretty good. Kirby Puckett was the other one who came to mind."

With a lack of outfield depth in the upper levels of the minor leagues, the Phillies have reason to have strong interest in Castillo. But he'll likely command top dollar.

In the last 2 years, Puig received a 7-year, $42 million contract from the Dodgers and Abreu got a 6-year, $68 million deal from the White Sox.

Phillers

Marlon Byrd was out of the lineup for the first time in 27 games. Ryne Sandberg said he planned to give Byrd a regular day off at some point in the Mets series, and opted for yesterday after Byrd was hobbling around late Monday night after fouling a ball off his left foot . . . When Byrd and Carlos Ruiz each had four hits in the Phillies' 7-1 loss on Monday, they became the first set of teammates with four-hit games in a loss when their team scored just one run in 30 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Rod Carew and Fred Lynn each had four hits in the Angels' 2-1 loss at Oakland on April 13, 1984 . . . Phillies Triple A pitching coach Ray Burris has been named the pitching coach for the Arizona Fall League's Scottsdale Scorpions.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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