Tyler Kepner of the New York Times recently caught up with former Yankee farmhand Ian Kennedy at the Diamondbacks spring training facility in Tuscon, AZ. They discussed his time with the Yanks, what went wrong, and his place on his new team. He writes:
TUCSON – Ian Kennedy’s last start in the major leagues was on Aug. 8, 2008. It was a night that colored many fans’ perception of him. He gave up five runs in two innings of a 10-5 loss in Anaheim, Calif., and when he met with reporters afterward, he insisted he had made good pitches and was not upset.
It was the wrong thing to say, causing a backlash against Kennedy, and the Yankees now use it in the media-training video they show players in spring training. It is an example of what not to do.
Kennedy talked about that night on Sunday, after his two-inning start for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Tucson Electric Park. Without being asked, Kennedy brought up the game in talking about that lost season, when he could not hold his spot in the Yankees’ rotation.
Early in the season, Kennedy explained, he had tried to do too much, and dwelled too long on bad outings, letting one bleed into the next. Before the Angels game, he had pitched very well in Class AAA. He wanted to forget the bad outing as soon as possible, and as he stewed in the clubhouse for hours, he vowed to do that.
Many fans didn’t understand at the time that part of being a good pitcher is maintaining your confidence, even after a bad outing. A bad performance doesn’t mean you’re a bad pitcher, it just means you had a bad day. Beating yourself up accomplishes nothing, and can even lead to trying too hard, which makes things worse. But the way he conveyed it, he came across as delusional about his abilities and as if he didn’t care, which clearly wasn’t the case. For PR purposes, you can’t expect the average fan to understand the inner workings of being a MLB starter, so the easiest thing to do is say “I stunk” and move on.
Kepner goes on to note that IPK is the favorite to land the 4th starter’s role for the D-Backs and has added a 2-seamer to his repertiore. He also will soon get a 2009 World Series ring for having pitched a game in September. Tyler ends with this quote from Ian-
“This is a good opportunity at a good time in my career,” Kennedy said. “It’s bittersweet, because I loved the Yankees. It was great there. But it’s really good being here, too.”
I wish Ian all the best. I will be following his starts as part of a new feature I plan on running this season called ‘Keeping up with the Ex’s’ where you’ll get regular updates on the ex-Yanks who were either traded or left as free agents this off season. IPK, Austin Jackson, Melky, Damon and Matsui will all be part of it.
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