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He was signed as stop-gap, but he’s becoming a real issue.
Kyle Kendrick was the veteran anchor that the Colorado Rockies brought in over the off-season to bridge the gap for a couple of the young pitchers in the Rockies organization to have some time to get ready in the minor leagues. It buys prospects like Jon Gray a chance to take his lumps in Triple-A and be ready for the big leagues either late in 2015 or for the whole season in 2016.
On Tuesday night in Arizona, Kendrick gave plenty of reasons to wonder if he is going to be reliable every fifth day. Kendrick went just 4-1/3 innings. He gave up eight runs on 10 hits. The Diamondbacks took him out of the park twice in his short outing.
No one is expecting Kendrick to do what he did on Opening Day in Milwaukee on a regular basis. The Rockies don’t need him to throw seven shutout innings every time he takes the mound. However, they do need him to be able to give them a serviceable outing. They need him to consistently give them six or more innings and give up between three or four runs. If Kendrick ended the season with an ERA somewhere in the 4.65 region, the Rockies will have made a wise investment.
Kendrick made it clear that he didn’t have it on Tuesday. With just seven pitches delivered, Kendrick had given up three runs. Although, the 1st inning wasn’t the inning that took the helium out of the balloon for the Rockies.
In the 4th inning, the Rockies offense clawed their way back into the game. They were down 3-0 early, but scored two runs on a double by Charlie Blackmon that scored Kendrick and then a single by Troy Tulowitzki to knot the game up. Suddenly the Rockies had new life and had a chance to steal a game that looked bad from the beginning.
Instead, Kendrick headed back to the mound in the bottom of the 4th and immediately gave the two runs the Rockies had just fought for back to the Diamondbacks. Mark Trumbo smacked a single to center field, then David Peralta hit a belt-high cut-fastball deep into the right field seats. Six pitches after the Rockies tied it up, the Diamondbacks had their lead back.
Ironically, the back-breaker for the Rockies wasn’t the three runs in the 1st inning, it was the two quick runs in the 4th. Momentum can’t be measured, but in baseball something strange happens with momentum. When a team is having to scratch out at-bats and really work hard to score a few runs, and then the opposing team goes out and answers those runs both quickly and seemingly simply. It can put weight so heavy on a team’s shoulders that they can’t overcome it.
The leadership that Kendrick was expected to bring means that he will limit damage. Of course, no pitcher is trying to give up hits and home runs, but Kendrick has had a tough time in April getting the outs the he needs, when he needs them. With the exception of Opening Day, his starts haven’t been just average, they have been flat out bad.
April has led to a good surprise for the Rockies. They are playing well, especially on the road. If they wan to prove that they are just a one-month-wonder, they might have to make some tough decisions. Of course the team has to have someone who can fill Kendrick’s role, but the reality is, if the Rockies want to pretend to be contenders, they will eventually have to make tough decisions.
Kendrick was brought in to get outs. He doesn’t need to be great, but he needs to keep momentum on his side when his team gives it to him. If he can’t do that, the Rockies will have to make a tough decision.