By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—Outside of the Phillies big starters-Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Hamels- Kyle Kendrick has been doing more than holding his own so far this season.
He hasn’t lost a start since the team’s home opener against the Kansas City Royals and has been the most consistent pitcher in the Phillies starting rotation. He has gone six or more innings in his last five outings. Since the loss to the Royals, Kendrick has a 1.54 earned run average.
“He’s being aggressive with his pitches and I think he’s really consistent,” said Phillies catcher Erik Kratz. “I think his ability to throw all of his pitches in any situation is what gives him a lot of success.”
In the Phillies 7-2 win Thursday over the Miami Marlins, a team he has owned throughout his career, Kendrick had another solid outing, allowing just two runs on seven hits while striking out five and giving up just two walks. He retired the last six batters he faced after giving up a solo home run to Miami centerfielder Justin Ruggiano in the sixth inning.
Dating back to last year’s All-Star Break, Kendrick has found his rhythm as a starter. In his last 18 starts, Kendrick has 12 wins and has firmly established himself as the team’s fourth starter. While the Phillies big three starters have struggled at various times this season, Kendrick has been the team’s most consistent starter.
“There’s a lot of things that go into that, but I think just having good secondary pitches that I feel comfortable with throwing,” Kendrick said. “Knowing what kind of pitcher I am, and not trying to do too much out there and getting ahead and throwing strikes. I use my secondary pitches—my cutter and change up-when I want to.”
Manuel said Kendrick’s workout and conditioning have made him a stronger pitcher and he’s improved where he places the ball and he’s done a better job of commanding his pitches.
“His fast ball, his sinker is a little bit better velocity wise and he’s improved his location with his cutter and his changeup,” Manuel said. “He’s more relaxed and calmed down is a good word for it. I like it when he doesn’t take a long time to throw the ball and I like for him to get into a good tempo and rhythm and keep the flow of the game going.”
After a pretty good rookie campaign in 2007 where he won 10 games, Kendrick has had his ups and downs over the last six years. He has been scrapping and fighting to get back into the Phillies starting rotation. He has had his share of stints in the bullpen and in the minor leagues.
But in the second half of last season, Kendrick made his case to be the Phillies fourth starter. He went 9-4 and had a 2.87 earned run average. Kratz said Kendrick has gotten even better in 2013 thanks to his success in the second half of the 2012 season.
That certainly came through against the Marlins Thursday night even when some of Kendrick pitches weren’t working at first. Kratz said that Kendrick didn’t panic and fought his way through it.
“Early tonight his cutter wasn’t there and so he didn’t us it early and his changeup, he wasn’t commanding it as well,” Kratz said. “He was basically pitching one pitch on both sides of the plate and still being aggressive. When certain pitches aren’t working, I think you get a little tentative. You pick here, you pick there, afraid of contact. He’s not afraid of contact.”