Kendrick beats Marlins in what could be his Phillies finale

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Phillies starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

MIAMI - When the Phillies summoned Kyle Kendrick from double-A Reading to replace Freddy Garcia in the rotation, the 22-year-old rookie was a stopgap and nothing more. That was 2007. Kendrick wore Curt Schilling's No. 38. "Kid" is how Charlie Manuel addressed him.

"He actually did a little better than I probably thought he would," Manuel, then the manager, said after Kendrick's debut. "I said I would like five innings, and he gave us six."

For the next seven years, up until Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Marlins, the expectations were minimized. The Phillies pretended to trade Kendrick to Japan in 2008 as a joke. They played 46 postseason games in Kendrick's tenure, yet he appeared in just one. His 2008 World Series ring was stolen and later found at the bottom of a swamp. When the Phillies had Four Aces in 2011, Kendrick was the No. 7 starter.

His time with the Phillies probably ended with seven innings of one-run ball Wednesday, and it was a memorable night.

"It was a little emotional, I'm not going to lie," Kendrick said. "I'm a pretty emotional guy anyways. I don't like change. I'm not good with change. Change is never easy. If it happens, I'll deal with it."

Kendrick, an .095 hitter this season, rapped a career-high three hits. His seventh-inning double scored the first Phillies run in 19 innings.

Ryne Sandberg could have yanked Kendrick during a jam in the seventh. The Phillies manager convened a mound meeting but let Kendrick remain. The pitcher rewarded that faith by inducing a rally-killing double play. He earned his team-leading 10th win.

Crotch-grabbing closer Jonathan Papelbon saved it on 11 pitches. Afterward, in his first comments since a seven-game suspension, Papelbon stuck to his original story: He had to adjust himself at that moment.

"Everyone has their right to an opinion and what they think," Papelbon said. "I said what I said, and it's the truth, and I'm not going to waver from that. If I really, really wanted to do something back it would have been more than just a little oomph with the pants, you know what I mean."

Papelbon did not appeal the suspension, he said, because it would have spilled into next season.

"It's been a multitude of things," Papelbon said. "It's been boring. It's been aggravating and monotonous. . . . I've just had to try to put Joe West in the back of my mind and carry on even though I feel like I got the raw end of the deal."

He knows what to expect this weekend if he pitches at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm looking forward to it," Papelbon said.

Kendrick, who made $19 million in the last seven seasons, is a free agent. His 185 starts rank 16th in 132 seasons of Phillies baseball. His 74 wins are 25th in franchise history. Those are tributes to his longevity, and not necessarily constant effectiveness. A divorce this winter for both sides might be best.

Only Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels have played in Philadelphia longer than Kendrick. His durability, especially as a pitcher who often shuttled between the rotation and bullpen, was his finest asset. He went on the disabled list once in eight seasons.

But his 4.61 ERA this season, when he earned $7.68 million, made his one of the league's most unfavorable deals. The Phillies will look to replace Kendrick with a cheaper arm.

Kendrick showed improvement in September, which should help his negotiations. (He had a 2.78 ERA this month.) Sandberg said the team's situation precludes it from eliminating any possible 2015 options.

"We're going to need to fill some spots for the rotation next year," Sandberg said. "I wouldn't totally eliminate him from that picture."

Kendrick finished the season with a career-high 199 innings. He did his job Wednesday, perhaps for the last time with the Phillies.

"In baseball," Kendrick said, "you're not always fortunate to be with one team your whole career."

 


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb