Kyle Kendrick is out of chances and Jon Gray has finally earned his.
Apr 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick (38) walks to the dugout after being taken out of the game during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field. The Cubs won 9-5. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
It’s time to let youth and the farm system dictate where his team is going. Kyle Kendrick was signed this off-season to be an innings eater. He was brought in to give the bullpen some much-needed rest after multiple seasons of heavy workloads. In any other organization, a guy with a career 4.53ERA isn’t a front of the rotation starter, but here in Denver, we’ll take his 189 innings pitched per season average. Thus far in 2015, the Kyle Kendrick we’ve seen hasn’t been anywhere near serviceable. He’s started 11 games, amassing a 2-7 record.
To his credit, he’s gone at least 5 innings in all but 2 starts. His downfall is he rarely leaves the Rockies in the ballgame when he does come out. There is no place in a Major League rotation for a 6.55 ERA. I don’t care how bad the team is. His HR/9 is almost double his career average this year. BB/9ip is also up appreciably while his K/9ip is down from his career average as well. All these metrics show a decline from the pitcher who the Rockies hoped to get based on career averages.
Jon Gray was very good in Spring Training, with a couple minor hiccups late in the spring. He went to AAA Albuquerque and definitely showed some growing pains with a few poor outings early. His first 4 starts featured a lot of hits and earned runs given up. There was some talk that he was working on specific pitches and not necessarily using his full arsenal in hopes of polishing secondary offerings, but nothing was ever confirmed. Since his start on 4/27, in which he went 3.2ip, gave up 7 runs on 10 hits, he’s been a completely different pitcher.
In fact, in his last 3 starts, he’s gone 6 2/3, 6 and 7ip allowing 12 total hits and 3 total earned runs. He’s allowed 3ER or fewer in 6 straight starts. Something the Rockies could definitely use at the Major League level. According to Gray, in an interview with MiLB.com’s Chris Jackson, he’s been more efficient throwing his off-speed pitches for strikes instead of relying on his mid to upper 90’s fastball.
At the college level, he could get away with relying on his fastball and still be very successful. Even lower in the minor leagues he had great success pitching that way. As this former professional pitcher knows, the higher in the minor leagues you get, the less you can rely on a hard fastball as your primary pitch. In the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, he’s had to grow and mature as a pitcher and learn to rely on those secondary offerings. He also mentioned that he’s learned to take a little off of that high-90’s fastball in an effort to be more efficient and have better control with it. These two adjustments have helped turn him into the pitcher the Rockies projected when they drafted him 3rd overall in 2013.
"“I’ve had to slow it down a little bit, just to have that command”"
There are probably a lot of fans and writers who think he’d be better served with more minor league time, but for this writer, his ability to make these adjustments shows he’s ready to make the transition to a Major League starter.
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As of this article, the Rockies are 22-27, and while they’ve started to right the ship a bit in the past couple of weeks, winning 7 of their last 9, they’re going to need consistent starting pitching to keep going in the right direction. Jorge DeLaRosa hasn’t been anywhere near as good or as healthy as he has been in years past in Colorado. Chad Bettis appears to be coming into his own and deserves to stay in the rotation. After a stellar start against the Giants, he followed that up by taking a no-hitter into the 8th in his next start. Jordan Lyles could be sidelined for months after re-injuring his toe and potentially needing surgery.
Eddie Butler has been a bit bipolar with his ability to throw strikes, but his pedigree and age warrant keeping him in the rotation. David Hale, who went 6 2/3 in a spot start during a double-header also deserves a shot at the rotation. In his career with Atlanta, Hale showed a high ceiling and I think it’s prudent the Rockies give him that opportunity. It’s time to let youth invade Coors Field and the Rockies starting rotation. Kendrick needs to be moved to the bullpen in a long relief role or DFA’d all together. Let Butler, Gray, Bettis, DLR and Hale have the reigns and direct where this season, and the Rockies future, is going.