Remaining calm a key for Kendrick
After some rough outings, righty shines in Thursday's game
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Within a few days of his second straight Grapefruit League drubbing, Kyle Kendrick trudged to the video room at Bright House Field.There he was told to "shut the door" by pitching coach Rich Dubee, who jokingly described the ensuing discussion as "a knock down, drag out," then offered more seriously, "It was more of a monologue than a dialogue." Regardless of tone, Dubee wanted to remind the 23-year-old -- who, despite a 10-4 record and a 3.78 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie last season, is in his first big league Spring Training -- to relax. Sweating a few poor outings in March wasn't going to help matters, especially when those games are designed to refine pitches and mechanics. "He's going to have a long future and needs to understand not to panic," Dubee said. "We had to watch on the Skyway Bridge there for a while; he was totally flustered. We had to keep telling him, 'Don't worry about a thing. You won 10 games.' I asked him to look around the clubhouse -- how many guys won 10 games last year?" Whatever the wisdom imparted, Kendrick looked sharp on Thursday against the Pirates, turning in his best outing of the spring. He cruised through five innings and allowed two hits and two walks, with one strikeout. Want evidence that he hasn't forgotten how to use his sinker? He recorded 11 of 15 outs via the ground ball. Though he's already been named the team's No. 4 starter based on last season's performance, Kendrick needed something positive. Though he said he was never close to leaping off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge -- the 5 1/2-mile expanse which spans Tampa Bay -- he was glad for the largely one-sided conversation. "We had a good long talk," Kendrick said. "He said it's early and will come around. It's not that I was panicking, but I didn't want to have bad outings. I have never doubted myself, but I hadn't been hit like this in two years." How much the chat helped is tough to quantify, but Kendrick has returned to pitching in his previous two outings. He spent the early part of camp refining his fastball location and developing a changeup. In a Minor League start last week and Thursday against the Pirates, Kendrick concentrated more on setting up hitters and finishing them off.
Originally scheduled to start in a Minor League game that was canceled Thursday, the Phillies decided to start Kendrick in the Grapefruit League game because they wanted to keep him on schedule to pitch April 4 against Cincinnati. Adam Eaton was shifted to Friday and is in line to start April 5 or 6. Brett Myers will throw in a Minor League game at the Carpenter Complex on Friday.Kendrick gets two more outings -- Tuesday and March 30 -- to continue ramping up for the regular season. "I'm getting closer," Kendrick said. "I'm not there. I walked a couple of guys and I didn't like that. I hit a guy 0-2 and I didn't like that. Overall, it was a quality outing, we won and I can build off that." Kendrick and Dubee revealed another factor for his struggles when they offered that Kendrick experienced right shoulder fatigue after his outing against Atlanta at Disney World, though it didn't cost him a turn in the rotation. Kendrick believes it may have been in his head. "It was something that I never felt before," Kendrick said. "It was just a little fatigue in my shoulder. You can play mind games when you're in a slump. You start wondering what's going on. But, like Brett said when we were talking today, 'Don't think about anything.' Last year, I wasn't thinking about anything when I was out there. I just pitched my game. Brett's a good guy, and I think we have the same mind-set for baseball." That said, Kendrick's friendship with the excitable Myers may be the scariest revelation.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.