Looking Ahead: Ian Kennedy

Ian Kennedy pitched in a game for the first time since being diagnosed with an aneurysm earlier this year.

ian-kennedyHe pitched well, going two innings, allowing just one hit, walking no one, striking out one, and inducing five ground balls in a winning effort for the Tampa Yankees in the Florida State League playoffs.

We all know the story for Ian Kennedy: he pitched well in a cup of coffee in 2007 (1.89 ERA in 3 starts across 19 innings), though there were warning signs of struggles to come (9 walks, a relatively low K/BB of 1.67). In 2008 he, and Phil Hughes, were handed the back end starting pitching jobs and both faltered. Kennedy pitched in 10 games in 2008, 9 starts, and was tagged for 50 hits in 39.2 innings to go along with 26 walks and just 27 strikeouts (1.04 K/BB).

2009 saw both Kennedy and Hughes start the season in AAA, and they both got off to fantastic starts. For Scranton, Kennedy threw four great games. He pitched 22.2 innings, allowed just 18 hits, walked only 7 and struck out 25, posting a 1.59 ERA. Had it not been for his freak injury, Kennedy most definitely would have contributed to the New York Yankees in some meaningful way this year. Since that’s impossible now, with the season winding down and Kennedy only pitching in High-A to rehab, let’s look forward to what he could do next season.

Kennedy turns 25 on December 19 of this year, so he’s still pretty young. However, at that age, the ticking of the clock gets a little louder. One thing that could determine what happens with Kennedy next year is whether or not Andy Pettitte returns. If he does, Kennedy will most likely start 2010 in Scranton again, since the rotation would be full (Sabathia/Burnett/Pettitte/Chamberlain/Hughes). Even if this occurs, I’d expect IPK to be the de facto sixth starter, ready to be called up if an injury should occur. If Pettitte does not return, Kennedy, among others (Ivan Nova? Romulo Sanchez? Zach McAllister?), could compete for the fifth starter’s spot.

The more likely scenario is the former, in which Pettitte returns. This leaves Kennedy as the odd (or even?) man out of the rotation, barring injury. Of course, that injury bug could always bite as it did this year with Chien Ming Wang and Kennedy could be up and starting in the Bronx before we know it. However, even if that doesn’t happen, I’d still expect to see Ian with the Bombers sooner rather than later in 2010. We know Kennedy has absolutely crushed the minors, and there’s really nothing left for him to prove there. Ideally, the 2010 Yankees rotation will go injury-free and Kennedy can contribute to the team in a similar fashion to how Alfredo Aceves has in 2009: a flexible bullpen option who could go multiple innings or even spot start if he needs to. While Kennedy may not be getting any younger, he’s certainly no where near over the hill. Yankee fans were disappointed in Kennedy in 2008, but I think he has a real chance to shine in 2010.

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