Trends with rotation force Byrnes' Deadline deal
Padres' acquisition of Kennedy should bolster struggling staff in second half, 2014
SAN DIEGO -- It probably pained him some to admit it, but Padres catcher Nick Hundley said Wednesday what everyone who has watched the team this season has known for a while.
"Obviously, it's no secret we haven't done as well as we've done in the past with our starting pitching," Hundley said. "I mean, that's kind of what we've been known for since I've been here and before I was here. Our mantra was starting pitching."
But after their first 109 games, the team's starting pitchers have the second-highest ERA (4.63) in the National League, ahead of only the Brewers (4.71). Entering Friday's game against the Yankees at Petco Park, the rotation's ERA is the club's second highest since 2003. The Padres also rank 11th in the NL in innings pitched by a starter.
These disturbing trends led general manager Josh Byrnes to swing big Wednesday before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, as he made a potentially low-risk, high-reward deal by sending two pitchers and a 2014 Draft pick to the D-backs for right-handed starter Ian Kennedy.
"I think this move helps us in the immediate and moving forward," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "He fits right into our rotation. We'll see how this all plays out."
Kennedy, two seasons removed from a fourth-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award vote after going 21-4, will front the rotation for the final two months of the season and 2014, when the starting staff will look a lot different, with Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis unlikely to return.
When Kennedy makes his Padres debut Sunday against the Yankees, he'll become the 10th starting pitcher San Diego has used in 2013. Granted, injuries are part of the game -- Richard and Marquis have been lost to season-ending ones -- but underperformance and short, ineffective starts are enough to drive a manager and pitching coach batty.
"We talk about the importance of having our best starting pitchers in the organization going to the post every day," Black said. "You need the innings, the quality outings. We've had our ups and downs there."
Byrnes, who has a history with Kennedy from when he was the general manager of the D-backs, has high hopes for Kennedy despite his struggles this season. Byrnes had professional scout Chris Bourjos -- father of the Angels' outfielder, Peter -- watch several of Kennedy's recent starts.
"Chris said his stuff was very similar, that he made some mistakes, but stuff-wise -- how he looks, delivery, arm action -- that he looks the same," Byrnes said. "We think his struggles this year are things that he can hopefully put behind him."
A change of scenery might benefit Kennedy, a fly-ball pitcher who moves from hitter-friendly Chase Field to a much bigger ballpark in Petco Park, even if some dimension changes before the season have led the ballpark to play a little more fair this season.
"I'm a big believer that there are so many things that add to the talent of a pitcher -- the manager, the pitching coach [Darren Balsley], the defense, the advanced scouting, the pitch calling, the ballpark," Byrnes said. "You put all that together, and it's tough for the other team to score."
Even with the acquisition of Kennedy, Byrnes hasn't ruled out adding more pitching before the start of the 2014 season. As it stands, the rotation candidates for next season are: Kennedy, Eric Stults, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and a handful of others, including left-hander Cory Luebke, who had a promising season cut short in 2012 after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery.
"It doesn't mean we're going to stop if we can improve our starting pitching or our pitching in general," Byrnes said. "I think we have an idea what our team will look like going into the offseason, what it will cost, I still think we've got room to do more."