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A 'different' Kennedy faced Diamondbacks

Former Diamondback Ian Kennedy has improved velocity with Padres.
Former Diamondback Ian Kennedy has improved velocity with Padres.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

While the Diamondbacks managed to tag former teammate Ian Kennedy with a loss last Saturday night, there may be a new image.

When Kennedy was with the Diamondbacks, the right-hander became predictable with location and secondary pitches. Not to indicate hitters were kept guessing but Kennedy’s deliveries suffered from lack of location. By the time the D-backs dealt the native of Huntington Beach, Calif. to the Padres at the trading deadline last July, Kennedy was 3-8 and a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts.

Quickly, a change of venue appeared to address whatever maladies were uncovered. In 10 starts with the Padres, he managed an above .500 conclusion (4-2, 4.24 ERA) to a season which began as a horror show.

Despite dropping a 4-3 decision to the D-backs his last time out, Kennedy enters his next assignment Thursday at home against the Marlins as a pitcher with a different look.

“(Kennedy) has a better command of his pitches and with better command comes grater velocity,” said Bud Black, the San Diego manager. “The improvement with Ian starts with his mechanics.”

Against the Diamondbacks in his last start, Kennedy was pushing the radar gun into the low 90s. His fast ball with Arizona rarely reached that high and, upon occasion, he might hit 91. Now, he appears to be consistently in the low 90s and struck out Gerardo Parra with a 95 mile per hour fastball to start the game.

Since he went 21-4 and an ERA of 2.88 in 33 starts in helping the D-backs capture the 2011 National League West Division title, the 29-year-old has been on a downward spiral. In the following year, 2012, he managed a 15-13 season but his ERA spiked to 4.02 and hen the downfall to start last season.

In the meantime, the Padres had their eye on Kennedy and knew of his achievement in the championship season of 2011.

“Last year, we were in need of starting pitching,” Black continued. “We had numerous injuries and the staff was depleted. We were not where we needed to be and injuries were the main reason. (Kennedy) had a track record of success.”

When trade rumors began to swirl around Kennedy, the Padres jumped forward. In dealing left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher to the D-backs, Black and Josh Byrnes, the San Diego general manger, had little to lose.

So the deal was made and Kennedy was sent packing for Thatcher and right-handed reliever Matt Stites.

If Black, who pitched in the majors for 14 years with Seattle, Kansas City, Cleveland, Toronto and San Francisco, immediately recognized Kennedy’s earlier command issue, that observation did not escape the Diamondbacks.

“(Kennedy) did not have as much command of his secondary pitches,” offered Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. “Plus, there were location and command issues. If you can command your fast ball, you’ll have much more success.”

In actually facing Kennedy, the Diamondbacks indicated their knowledge was not a factor in approaching their former teammate.

“(Kennedy) struck me twice in a game here last season,” said catcher Miguel Montero. “So, not, I don’t see any advantage.”

Approaching his start Thursday against Miami, Kennedy is 2-4, a 3.43 ERA for seven starts. That includes a team-high 44 strikeouts in 42 innings of work.