© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
07/05/07 3:00 PM ET
Kendrick's style serving him well
Right-handed starter off to 3-0 start for Phillies this season
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
DENVER -- Should Kyle Kendrick ever show his face in Reading, Pa., he'll be summarily "arrested" and dragged into court. Likely shocking to those who know him, the clean-cut 22-year-old is wanted by teammates for an unpaid fine, which Kendrick claimed to know nothing about until recently. Still, ignorance is no defense, especially in kangaroo court. "They're very strict in Double-A," said Chris Coste, Kendrick's teammate on the R-Phillies. "The problem is that it was written up and put in the kangaroo court box, but he was called up before the case could be read." The charge? "Spending 22 minutes and 39 seconds in front of the mirror doing his hair," Coste said, without a hint of a smile. "And his hair didn't change from Minute 1 to Minute 22. He really likes his hair." Coste added that Kendrick had already been found guilty in absentia, and Kendrick should cover the $5 fine "if he knows what's good for him." "My hair, huh?" Kendrick said, after a lengthy time in front of the mirror. "Guilty, I guess. I want to look good, and make sure every little hair is perfect. I think they made up the time, though. I don't think I'll pay it." Instead, Kendrick will concentrate on getting Major League hitters out, and won't worry about trumped-up charges of R-Phils teammates Jason Hill and Greg Jacobs, whom he suspects are responsible. Kendrick's been doing a solid job of the former, and takes an unblemished record into his fifth career start against the Rockies in Coors on Friday. The Phillies have won all four of his outings, even though he's opposed fellow young guns John Danks (Chicago), Jason Stanford (Indians), Homer Bailey (Reds) and Mike Pelfrey (Mets). He faces another young hurler in Rockies lefty Jeff Francis. The former high school quarterback -- he was offered a football scholarship to Washington State -- doesn't throw a baseball particularly hard and has more walks (nine) than strikeouts (eight), but he's survived by using his defense. He's recorded 39 of his 74 outs, or 53 percent, on the ground. That's necessary anywhere, but especially in in Citizens Bank Park or Coors Field, where he'll be on Friday. "The first thing my pitching coach [in Double-A] said was 'Don't change anything,'" said Kendrick, whose ground-ball rate was slightly lower in the Minors. "I'm pitching the same way I was in Double-A and trusting my stuff and my catcher." Kendrick has already discovered that Major League hitters adjust much quicker than they do in Double-A, often in the same at-bat, or at least by the next at-bat. The righty is often parked next to catcher Rod Barajas watching video or sitting next to Jamie Moyer in the dugout. Recently, Kendrick asked Barajas what a catcher looks for while studying video. Barajas explained what certain hitters look for in certain counts, and what their tendencies might be with a runner on base. The discussion also included his thoughts on what pitches he calls in certain counts, and which guys are more likely to take the first pitch. Kendrick barely said a word. "Then I asked, 'If I was looking at hitters, what would I look for on film?'" Kendrick said. "He said, 'Same thing. If the guy is a first-ball swinger, what did you do the last time you faced him?' He has so much knowledge. I'm glad I asked. The next time I look at video, I know what to look for." When not shadowing Barajas by the video machine, Kendrick has adopted Moyer as his surrogate father. Not only is Moyer a veteran of 21 seasons, but he's excellent at explaining nuances. Kendrick appears to be his latest disciple. "I make sure I sit by him during the games," said Kendrick, who spent at least four innings of Wednesday's game next to Moyer. "I ask questions and put [the answers] in my memory banks." Tip No. 1 from Moyer was that Kendrick should keep doing what got him to the big leagues and let the Phillies NL-leading offense take care of the rest. He's met that goal, going at least six innings and allowing four or fewer runs in each of those starts, for a 4.38 ERA. "He didn't fall into the trap of trying to do extra," said Coste, who sees the same kid he caught at Double-A. "That's the problem guys have when they come up, they want to do something extraordinary, something different than what got him there. He was smart enough to realize not try to throw harder, and try to make the same pitches as he did in the Minor Leagues, and that's why he's had success." "This is the tip of the iceberg for this kid," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "It's the same thing Cole [Hamels] went through, when you're basically learning on the job. He's got a great demeanor on the mound, and has done everything we've asked of him, given us a chance to win." It's just that no one expected to hear his name for a while. A former seventh-round pick in 2003, Kendrick is making the most of the opportunity given to him because of injuries to Jon Lieber and Freddy Garcia. He could just as easily be riding on a Double-A bus somewhere. "Once you get to Double-A, you know you're always a phone call away, so I thought something might happen and maybe I'd get a chance this year," Kendrick said. "It happened sooner than I thought. Now I have to do something about it." If not, there's a matter of $5 waiting to be settled. Philling In: In his first minor-league rehab appearance, RHP Tom Gordon (strained rotator cuff), worked a scoreless inning Thursday for Single-A Clearwater, throwing 17 pitches.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.