TAMPA, Fla. — If you want to know the main reason why the Phillies felt comfortable giving Kyle Kendrick a two-year, $7.5 million contract extension at the start of spring training, look no further than his ability to retire left-handed hitters in 2011 when he had by far his best season in the big leagues.
That had been Kendrick's albatross during the first four seasons of his big-league career. Lefties batted .320 with 39 home runs against him going into last season, but the 27-year-old righthander developed a sharp cutter to complement his sinker and he held lefties to a .234 average last season.
With the Phillies playing one of their two exhibitions against the New York Yankees Sunday at Steinbrenner Field, Kendrick got a chance to start a Grapefruit League game against a lineup that included Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, two of the most dangerous left-handed hitters in baseball.
In three scoreless innings, Kendrick retired Cano twice and used a backdoor cutter to catch Teixeira looking at a called third strike in the bottom of the first inning during the Phillies' 3-0 loss to the Yankees.
"It's a big pitch," said Kendrick, who has thrown five scoreless innings this spring. "If you can throw it to lefties, it's tough for them to look for it. It's been huge for me and it feels great. It's fun to pitch with more than one pitch."
The cutter doesn't just work for Kendrick against lefties either.
"It's a weapon for him," triple-A pitching coach Rod Nichols said. "He can throw it to either side of the plate. He has really grown up."
As of right now, Kendrick remains the sixth starter behind Vance Worley and Joe Blanton, but he is still being stretched out like the rest of the starters. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said earlier in spring training that Kendrick may be considered for a late-inning role, but Kendrick said that subject has not come up since then.
"I just try to go out and get better," Kendrick said. "They're going to make those decisions. That's up to them."
CC and company shut down Phil-ins offense
With most of the regulars playing against Detroit in Clearwater, the Phillies' 'B' team managed just three hits against CC Sabathia and a collection of Yankees relievers.
New York scored twice in the fourth off righthander Austin Hyatt and took advantage of an error by Hector Luna to add an unearned run in the seventh inning.