I was at Kyle Kendrick's Major League Debut. It was an afternoon interleague series against the Chicago White Sox in 2007. This was Jim Thome's first appearance in town after being traded by the Phillies after the 2005 season. Big-name acquisition Freddy Garcia was shut down with an injury and the Phillies had nowhere to turn. So, they grabbed a young pitcher named Kyle Kendrick from AA Reading.
At the time of his recall, Kendrick was just 4-7 with a 3.21 ERA. They were not exactly impressive numbers, but the Phillies' farm system was not impressive either. As the 2007 Ottawa Lynx featured the likes of starters Rick Bauer, Matt Childers, Bubba Nelson, Zack Segovia, and a scuffling J.A. Happ, Kendrick was the best option. Kendrick impressed in his rookie season, going 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA.
But first-time-around-the-league luck must end sometime. Kendrick entered 2008 with a spot in the Phillies' rotation and went 11-9 in his 30 starts. But, the Phillies offense was responsibile for most of those wins and Kendrick was left off of the Phillies postseason roster. Kendrick was getting by using just one pitch: his sinker. In Major League Baseball that just does not work.
2009 would be his first experience in AAA. It was there that Kendrick started to become the pitcher that he is today.
In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Brookover explained what changed for the better:
[Kendrick] spent most of the 2009 season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he had the good fortune of learning a split-finger change-up grip from IronPigs teammate Justin Lehr, who had learned the pitch from Tim Hudson when the two were teammates in Oakland. That was one of the first events that led to Kendrick's evolution as a pitcher, an ongoing journey that still seems to be going unnoticed by many of the paying customers at Citizens Bank Park.
Kendrick had a servicable 2010 through 2012. In 2010, Kendrick shaved a run off of his previous full-season ERA and went 11-9. In 2011, Kendrick embraced the role of sixth starter and had some more success. He was 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA, including 15 starts and 19 bullpen appearances. What helped change Kendrick? Kendrick credits meeting one Roy Halladay, in Brookover's piece.
As a teammate and a friend, Roy has had the biggest impact on my career. I feel like there is a respect thing there. I feel like he has a respect for me, and I have a world of respect for him. No one can see the stuff behind the scenes that I get to see, but I've learned to respect how he goes about his business.
In 2012 we started to see Kendrick mold into what he is today. Kendrick made 12 bullpen apperances and made 25 starts. Many saw Kendrick's work ethic transformed by early-morning apperances to Spring Training camp alongside Halladay. His work was paying dividends.
While 11-12 with a 3.90 ERA did not seem too impressive, Kendrick made many key starts that led to the Phillies' second-half resurgance. Kendrick had pretty much minutes notice before the trade of Joe Blanton that he would start, and then never looked back. August 14-August 30 Kendrick fired off four straight wins, giving up a total of just four earned runs. His second-half performance earned Kendrick a spot in the Phillies 2013 rotation. So far he has not disappointed.
In six starts, Kenrick is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA. His ability to shut down the opposition in the midst of a losing streak has gotten fans' attention.
Kendrick is just 28 years old. While it feels like Kendrick has been around forever, he was thrust onto the scene at 22 years old and with that one pitch. Thanks indirectly to now-Brave Tim Hudson and teammate Roy Halladay, Kendick may have come into his own. While Halladay's future with the club is in doubt, his presence may live on in a way we never expected.
Kendrick has one more year with the club after this one, but the club could choose to extend him. At just 28, Kendrick could be part of the next wave of Phillies as we move on from the Phillies five-year run and the Chase Utleys, Carlos Ruizes, and Cliff Lees of this world. If he continues to pitch the way he has, that makes for a bright future.