I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I covered Ian Kennedy’s Double-A debut. The date was June 5, 2007 and the opponent was the Binghamton Mets. I remember being incredibly intrigued by the matchup, as Kevin Mulvey was on the hill for the B-Mets, and was considered to be one of the Mets better pitching prospects at that time.
Mulvey did not pan out. It’s safe to say that Kennedy has…just not as a member of the Yankees. Kennedy won his 20th game of the season last night as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the first National League pitcher to reach the 20-win plateau. That debut was the only time I’d see Kennedy pitch for Trenton, as he lasted just nine starts (four at home) before being promoted to Triple-A Scranton and ultimately, the Bronx.
Before the days of Thunder Thoughts, I only covered about 20-25 Thunder games a season, compared to the 50-60 I do now. But I remember going out of my way to see Kennedy and another young stud pitcher, Joba Chamberlain, pitch while they were with the team. In fact, I remember interviewing both of them on the same day just outside of the clubhouse. It was a good haul for a reporter back then, and a great one looking back today. My story? Well, it wasn’t a great one, but here’s a look back at my 2007 piece on then-Thunder starter Ian Kennedy.
Originally published in the June 21, 2007 Hunterdon County Democrat…
Ian Kennedy: Friday Night Lights
by Mike Ashmore
The critically acclaimed 2004 film “Friday Night Lights” was about a high school football team in Texas.
However, it just as easily could have been title of a movie about current Trenton Thunder starter Ian Kennedy.
While at USC, Kennedy was the team’s regular starter on Friday nights, which is when college coaches try to showcase their best pitcher.
“They had a lot of openings on Fridays and the weekends because people were hurt or failed out of school,” Kennedy said.
“I went out and ended up beating up out a sophomore for Friday night pitching. I got to pitch against (current Angels ace) Jered Weaver in my first start, which was really cool.”
Kennedy was the last freshman to earn Friday night honors since current Cardinals reliever Randy Flores did it in 1994.
While pitching for the Trojans, it turns out Kennedy was preparing for his professional career without even knowing it.
“Pitching there is kind of like pitching for the Yankees, they’ve won more championships than anyone,” he said.
And sure enough, Kennedy was drafted by the Yankees with 21st overall pick last year, agreeing to a $2.25 million signing bonus, the fourth largest in team history.
“I guess being drafted was kind of nerve-racking, because I got up and just waited by the computer to see where I was going to go. But I didn’t even hear myself get picked, I actually got a call from my college pitching coach to find out.”
And what about the check that comes with it?
“I really didn’t do much with it. I got a house that I had to pay my parents for, but I basically put it all into investments,” he said.
The Yankees investment in him is starting to pay immediate dividends, as the #6 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America dominated the Florida State League to the tune of a 6-1 record and 1.29 ERA before being called up to Trenton from Tampa in early June.
“I just wanted to do well in Tampa and be here before the end of the season, that’s what my goal was,” he said. “You can’t really control where you go or anything like that.”
Not much has changed in Kennedy’s first three starts in a Thunder uniform, as he’s 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA, including a win in his Eastern League debut against Mets top pitching prospect Kevin Mulvey.
“I honestly haven’t noticed that much of a difference between Single-A and Double-A,” he said.
“You still have to go after hitters. You can’t be afraid, you can’t be timid. There are a few more guys you have to look out for here compared to High-A. There might be one or two guys there, and maybe three or four guys up here, but you still have to go after them.”
Kennedy goes after hitters with a repertoire that includes a fastball that sat at 88 MPH in his Thunder debut, a sinking changeup, a slider and a curveball.
“I command my pitches a lot like (Tyler) Clippard does, that’s who a lot of people compare me to,” he said.
Clippard, who led the Eastern League in strikeouts with the Thunder last season, got a taste of the big leagues this season. At the rate he’s rising through the minors, can Kennedy be far behind?
“If I keep doing well, everything looks really good. I like this organization, I want to be a big league Yankee,” Kennedy said.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com