Today Chan Ho Park and JA Happ are battling blow for blow in hopes of being the fifth starter in the Phillies starting rotation. One will come out on top; the other will most likely remain with the team, but he’ll get the first crack once someone folds.
After Park and Happ, young slinger Carlos Carrasco awaits the call. The 22-year-old Venezuelan’s power meter is nearing blue, and he’ll be dropping in to throw his punches once a hole opens in the rotation. Call it May or June, at the earliest.
Following Carrasco is a line of weapons much like the motley crew of idiots awaiting to slap the scrambled passenger in “Airplane!” There’s Antonio Bastardo clenching his fists, then Tyson Brummett smoothing his knife, then Andrew Carpenter polishing his pistol, then Joe Savery revving his chainsaw. Somewhere in that line is Kyle Kedrick, the game two starter in the 2007 National League Division Series. Likely he’s sizing up some numchucks — a cruel reminder of a joke that presaged his fate.
Kendrick was sent to minor-league camp, taking with him a spring ERA over 9.00 and a 2008 ERA over 5.00. He’s been told he has to improve his slider and changeup, key pitches in an arsenal that includes just two developed pitches: a low-90s fastball and a sinker.
Kendrick flourished in 2007 because he was a non-entity before his call. Nobody pinned him as a potential big-league pitcher, so when the Phillies drew his name, he caught most opponents off guard. That, along with some solid defense, made Kendrick a happy surprise, a Rookie of the Year candidate and an instant burgeoning star.
But Kendrick still is what he was — not a hot prospect, not a figured star. Maybe a back-rotation starter. Maybe a middle reliever. But very much a kid (only 24) with two developed pitches and two pitches in progress. There’s hope he can develop those other pitches, and if they work, he can be an effective major-league starter. But if they don’t work, Kendrick might remain in that line while he’s passed by Bastardo, and Brummett, and Carpenter and Savery. And maybe Kyle Drabek, and Mike Stutes and Vance Worley …
“I think they see me and I see myself as a starter for my career. I’m not going to be a bullpen guy. If there’s no room here, I’ll go to Triple-A. Go down there, work on those pitches and come back. I need to get better. I need to get those pitches better. How long that takes me is up to me.”
If it takes too long, Kendrick won’t ever get back. That’s the way the game works. Here’s hoping he masters those pitches.