Phillies Need Strong Start from Kyle Kendrick with Halladay's Struggles

PJ BernackiCorrespondent IApril 5, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 01:  Kyle Kendrick #38 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on October 1, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t had the strong start to the season they had hoped, and starting pitching has been a big part of the reason. Cole Hamels gave up five earned runs in five innings in his debut, while Roy Halladay only made it through 3.1 innings and gave up five runs of his own. Cliff Lee, however, pitched great in his debut with only two hits in eight scoreless innings.

Now, it is time for Kyle Kendrick to take the mound in 2013, and he starts against the Kansas City Royals. In the Phillies' home opener, the fourth pitcher on the rotation looks to build off his success from the end of last season.

But Kendrick has had an erratic career with the Phillies thus far.

He started 20 games in his first season in 2007 and posted a 10-4 record with a 3.87 ERA. The following year, Kendrick's performance declined, as he finished 11-9 with a 5.49 ERA. In 2012, Kendrick resumed his place in the starting rotation after a few stints in the minors and the bullpen, where he added an effective changeup to his arsenal.

The 28-year-old did not get off to a fast start, but after the All-Star break, Kendrick had a record of 9-4 with a 2.87 ERA. The most promising aspect of that stretch was that Kendrick made it through six innings or more in eight out of his last 10 starts.

His consistency has never been more important than it will be this season. With the aging and ailing Halladay and the loss of Vance Worley, Kendrick has the opportunity to become the third ace on the pitching staff. Halladay may take time to return to 100 percent or may never actually get back there, so Philadelphia has to look to Kendrick to fill this void.

Spring training, however, did not signal strong hope for the right-handed pitcher, as he went 1-3 with a 6.88 ERA, but the regular season is a different animal.

Kendrick kicks off 2013 in Citizens Bank Park against 27-year-old Wade Davis. In 2010 and 2011, Davis had started 29 games in each season for the Tampa Bay Rays, yet he was a member of the bullpen in 2012. He now returns to a starting role for the Kansas City Royals.

Fortunately, Kendrick will not face off against a tough pitcher when more than 45,000 Phillies fans watch the team take the home field for the first time in 2013.

It is hard to predict how Kendrick will perform this season when he is assured to be pitching every five days, but the end of last season showed potential. Kendrick’s newly acquired changeup combined with his intimidating sinker has given him more confidence as he hopes to improve the Phillies' starting rotation this season.