D-backs serving up plenty of youth in rotation
Kennedy the elder statesman at 27; other four are 25 or younger
PHOENIX -- While he was out to dinner with his fellow starting pitchers recently, Ian Kennedy looked around and what he saw surprised him.
"I'm 27 and I'm the old guy," Kennedy said. "It makes me feel very old when we go out to dinner."
That's part of the price you pay when you're on the youngest starting staff in the Majors. An injury to Daniel Hudson and the trade of Joe Saunders left the D-backs rotation of Kennedy, Wade Miley (25), Trevor Cahill (24), Patrick Corbin (23) and Tyler Skaggs (21) as the youngest, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
When he took over as interim GM following the dismissal of Josh Byrnes on July 1, 2010, Jerry Dipoto looked at a roster that was underperforming on the field and costing too much in terms of payroll to be sustainable going forward.
In a flurry of deals over the following 30 days, Dipoto acquired Skaggs and Corbin from the Angels along with Saunders and got Hudson, who is just 25, and young prospect David Holmberg from the White Sox.
The message Dipoto, who left the organization last offseason to become GM of the Angels, sent was that the D-backs' future would be built on young pitching.
It was the same thing that Kevin Towers preached when he was hired as the full-time GM toward the end of the 2010 season.
It's a philosophy that is now bearing fruit, if a year ahead of schedule.
Given that the club selected a pair of pitchers -- college right-hander Trevor Bauer and high school righty Archie Bradley -- with two of the first seven picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, the pipeline is teeming with hurlers.
Bauer is knocking on the door, Hudson will be back from Tommy John surgery around the All-Star break in 2013 and Holmberg is not all that far away, either.
That depth is why the club elected to deal Saunders to the Orioles last month.
Making the trio of Miley, Corbin and Skaggs even more unique is the fact that all are left-handed.
"I think we've got a chance to have three pretty darn good left-handers going forward," Towers said. "A lot of clubs have a hard time finding one. Three that you could have for quite some time is a nice luxury to have.
In the transition, Miley has become a relative veteran despite making his debut in August of last season. He has already tried to share his experiences with Corbin, who was sent down earlier this year after compiling a 5.27 ERA in his first five starts.
"I talked to Corbin after he first got sent down about trying to be too perfect and giving hitters too much credit," said Miley, who did the same thing the year before. "Just do what you do, do what got you here and have fun doing it. He started doing that and the results were good. You question yourself in your first couple of times out. You say, 'I've got to do this or I have to do this if I want to stay.' You just have to go out and pitch and have fun and the numbers will take care of themselves."
Corbin in turn passed the advice along when Skaggs got called up.
"I just told him to go out there and continue to do what he's done all year and just be himself," Corbin said. "You just have to make that adjustment, and he looked like he was out there real comfortable going after guys."
It's been a learning process for all three of the young pitchers and they've had varying levels of success.
"Definitely a good learning experience," Skaggs said. "I feel like I've learned a lot from Spring Training up until now, and I still feel like I've got a lot to learn."
The three left-handers all pitched together in the Minor Leagues and are friends. Corbin and Skaggs share a closer bond simply because they came up in the Angels' organization together and were traded to Arizona together.
The friendship leads to encouragement and support off the field and good-natured competition on it.
"I think it's a pretty cool opportunity for us to all get to play together after playing together in the Minor Leagues," Miley said. "You're always going to go out and outdo the other person each day and that helps the team, it helps us."