Kennedy gets rude awakening vs. Rays
Rookie righty allows pair of solo homers early on Saturday
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's not uncommon for a pregame hitters' meeting to recommend getting good rips against a pitcher early, because that's when he may be at his shakiest.
Ian Kennedy would qualify as part of that group, but it's one he wants no part of.
The Rays used that scouting report against Kennedy again on Saturday, greeting him rudely in a Grapefruit League game against the Rays. Though Kennedy escaped the first frame with no runs scoring, he surrendered a pair of solo homers in the second inning and eventually accepted the loss in a 7-2 Tampa Bay victory at Legends Field.
"I've had this as long as I can remember," said Kennedy, who gave up shots to Eric Hinske and Chris Richard. "It hasn't always hurt me, but I throw too many pitches early. It doesn't allow me to go deep into the game."
Kennedy let a beat go by, then said, "I think it's about time I figure it out."
The topic is one that Kennedy has broached with Dana Cavalea, the Yankees' strength and conditioning coordinator. Kennedy said that he and Cavalea liken the feeling of "happy legs" to a first layer of cobwebs on game day, more like a surge of adrenaline than nervous energy.
Some, like catcher Jorge Posada, may opt to pin more mechanical tweaks on Kennedy. Posada opined that Kennedy was opening his front shoulder too much on Saturday, when he allowed three hits and two runs in three innings, walking two and striking out five.
But Kennedy is ready to try something different. His next start will come on Thursday, either against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., or in a Minor League game. Either way, Kennedy and Cavalea will be plotting a way to burn off some of that nervous energy -- they just don't know what yet.
"You've got to balance it," Kennedy said. "You'd like to get some blood flow, but you don't want to get too much out of breath. It'll be a work in progress."
To accomplish that, Kennedy said he also may consult with veteran Andy Pettitte, who has become a mentor to the "Big Three" of Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.
"He's like my second personal trainer," Kennedy said.
In nine Grapefruit League innings, Kennedy has allowed seven hits and three earned runs, walking three and striking out seven.
After impressing in three big league starts last year, the Yankees are counting on the 23-year-old to challenge for a spot in their starting rotation. Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes he has seen plenty of positives, despite whatever growing pains may exist.
"I've seen a lot of good things from him," Girardi said. "You don't look at just numbers, because numbers can fool you. But it is all new to him. He's used to being in the middle of the college season right now. He'll get used to it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.