Kennedy elated to have Royals’ defense behind him

Ian Kennedy

MARCH 2016 – Ian Kennedy knows what it is like to have a ground ball scoot by an infielder inches from his glove and for a fly ball to land just a step away from an outfielder chasing it.

He saw it all too often last year with the San Diego Padres.

“I don’t want to talk bad, but it’s more of like the numbers don’t lie, and that they were at the bottom of all the metrics (defensively),” Kennedy said.

Kennedy has gone from the most porous defense to a watertight defense when he signed in January with the Kansas City Royals. Kennedy agreed to a five-year $70 million contract, the most lucrative contact for a pitcher in franchise history.

Kennedy had unimpressive numbers last year – 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA in 30 Padres starts. Those numbers could drastically improve this year with the Royals defense.

“I’m really happy,” Kennedy said to have the Royals defense behind him. “You watch a lot of the highlights and a lot of these guys are making the highlights in the outfield diving plays and these guys turn the double plays. It’s fun to watch as a baseball fan and be a part of it, its every pitcher’s dream.”

Last year’s season was more of a nightmare than a dream for Ian Kennedy.

“It started out pretty rough,” Kennedy said.

Rough might be an understatement. He logged a 7.15 ERA in his first eight starts, surrendering a dozen home runs in 39 innings.

He pulled his left hamstring in his first start, which landed him on the disabled list to set the scaffold for his early demise.

“It was weird because I haven’t gone on the DL since my aneurysm surgery since 2009,” Kennedy said. “I tweaked my hammy. I think I was still trying to adjust to that. You can tell from my numbers the first month after coming off the DL.”

In his first start back after the injury, Kennedy was torched for eight runs on eight hits, three of them home runs, in an April 28 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A month later, he was still struggling, permitting seven runs on seven hits, including three home runs, two walks and a hit batter in 3 2/3 innings against Pittsburgh.

“After June came, I felt like normal again,” Kennedy said. “That’s the first time I had to deal with something like that, especially with your leg. For me getting over that front leg is really important. It knocked off some of my sequencing and my mechanics at first. Like I felt out of synch every other start.”

“It was just getting comfortable, saying, ‘hey the hamstring is fine, just get over it and it was.’ ”

Kennedy encompassed ERAs of 2.31 in June, 3.38 in July and 2.30 in August.

“I kind of looked at my season from June on,” Kennedy said. “June, July, August and September I felt really good.

Kennedy was a 2006 first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees, where Dave Eiland was his pitching coach in the high minors and when he broke into the big leagues. Eiland is the Royals pitching coach.

“Dave is good,” Kennedy said. “He had me early on my career. He told me over the phone he watched me on TV. He’s obviously matured as a pitching coach because I know I’ve matured as a pitcher. The last time I saw him I was 22 or 23. I’m almost 10 years older now.

“He’s very simple. He doesn’t make it too complicated. Knowing Dave before for me was nice. It’s nice to have that relationship already built. He just studies us pretty well. That’s what makes us pretty good.”

Kennedy can be pretty good, too. He went 21-4 with a 2.88 in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He will likely be slotted behind Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez in the defending World Series champion rotation.

“It’s a fun thing to be part of,” Kennedy said. “People talk about the Royals defense, but their offense is really good. It’s nice to have that. It brings up your confidence and your ability because just everybody else is playing higher and not playing for themselves. It seems like they have really good relationships. They are buddies. They are friends. They just happen to play baseball together. So it’s an easy environment for me to walk in. They make like you’ve played with them before. I’ve never met some of these guys, but they make you feel pretty comfortable.

“Playing on this team, also, elevates your level, playing on a team that plays this well and plays this close together. I just know by playing on other winning teams in the past you play better. They’re not playing for themselves, but they’re playing for the other teammates. You just play better.

“People talk about the Royals defense, but their offense is really good. It’s nice to have that. It brings up your confidence and your ability because just everybody else is playing higher and not playing for themselves.”

Article by Alan Eskew, Editor

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