As pitchers and catchers begin their spring routine in Clearwater, Florida today, the Philadelphia Phillies announced they had signed pitcher Kyle Kendrick to a two-year contract worth a reported $7.5 million. Kendrick will be a part of the Phillies pitching staff now through the 2013 season, avoiding arbitration along the way.
Good for him.
There is no question that we have seen the good and bad of Kendrick in his professional career, dating back to the 2007 season. After going 10-4 in his first year with the club, with a 3.87 ERA, Kendrick was a frustrating 11-9 with a 5.49 ERA in 2008, while the offense pulled him out of trouble on multiple occasions on the way to a World Series championship.
Kendrick's role was reduced to bullpen duty and emergency starter status when he was not in Lehigh Valley trying to retool his game in 2009. After struggling with command, and with the emergence of J.A. Happ on the mound (or so we thought), Kendrick actually ended the season with a 3-1 record and a very respectable 3.42 ERA, mostly out of relief duty.
With no room on the starting rotation for Kendrick, it appeared as though the Phillies found a good situation for Kendrick, who had adjusted to life out of the bullpen. Having Kendrick in long-relief situations gave the Phillies a decent arm to count on, and one that could be used as an emergency starter if needed.
In 2010, with the Phillies welcoming Roy Halladay to the team, Kendrick was known to arrive to the training facility and shadow Halladay as much as possible, sometimes even beating the hard-working Halladay to the Carpenter complex.
There was no better mentor or model for Kendrick of course as Halladay was set to embark on his first season in Philadelphia, knowing the World Series expectations that were in front of him. Halladay has been a well-documented hard worker, and if Kendrick happened to learn a few things along the way then it could only serve as a benefit for a guy who knows that a trip to Lehigh is never far away.
Kendrick had an up and down 2010 season, going 11-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 33 games, starting 31. He gave up a career high in hits (199) and tied a career high in runs allowed (103) and earned runs (95). A victim of the long ball (26 home runs allowed, a career high), Kendrick also struggled with command at times. But he did show signs of improvement as the season went along at times. Still, Kendrick was inconsistent overall, going 2-3 in September, failing to reach the sixth inning three times in five starts.
Last season Kendrick posted career bests with a 3.22 ERA and 110 hits allowed (with a minimum of 20 games played), while reducing his home runs allowed to nearly half (14) and cutting down on walks (49 in 2010 to 30, with one more intentional walk). Kendrick played out of the bullpen and as a starter, starting 15 games out of 34 total pitched, to once again show his value to the Phillies.
Kendrick is not a strikeout pitcher by any means and will never deserve to be compared to the likes of Halladay, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels, but his value to the pitching staff should not be understated. He is a ground ball pitcher that relies on contact, and for his place on the starting rotation, or out of the bullpen, that can go a long way.
This two-year contract seems to be deserved. He will see a slight increase compared to his 2011 salary. Now the question will be whether or not he will be needed much as a starting pitcher in 2012. The starting rotation looks as though it will be set with Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley, but Kendrick will almost certainly be the first man in case of an injury to any of these projected starters. Joe Blanton is hoping to rebound from an injury-riddled 2011 season, and it remains to be seen if Worley can avoid a sophomore slump (the same that hit Kendrick and Happ previously).
Kevin McGuire is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle. This article was originally published and appears on Macho Row.