Dependable Kendrick called upon to lead Rockies

With De La Rosa injured, veteran righty steps in to start Opening Day

Dependable Kendrick called upon to lead Rockies

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Availability is not the most exciting trait, but as the Rockies have learned the hard way, nothing good can happen without it. That's where right-hander Kyle Kendrick comes in.

Kendrick, 30, who spent the past eight seasons with the Phillies before signing with Colorado over the winter, will start Monday's Opening Day game at Milwaukee. But it's about more than one game.

Kendrick has spent his career at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, a difficult place for pitchers, but he managed to start 30 or more games four times. After the Rockies gave starts to 15 pitchers last year, having a pitcher with just one trip to the disabled list -- for the last half of September 2013 with shoulder tendinitis -- is a step in the right direction. And pitching in front of a capable offense, Kendrick's dependability is a building block.

Kendrick ready for opener

"I talked about that last year with some teammates: How many true aces are there?" Kendrick said. "Shoot, I pitched against a lot of aces, and we've won. Some guys have better stuff than others. But when it comes down to the game, you've got to battle. Find a way to win.

"I would love to throw zeros up every start for nine innings. That's awesome. But to be serious about it, I want to give our team a chance every start, be a leader in the clubhouse and on the field, and just win."

The Rockies believe Kendrick has the tools to survive and maybe even thrive.

Kendrick's fastball and cutter are ground-ball pitches, which served him well at Citizens Bank Park, where fly balls become home runs because of the tight dimensions. Early in Kendrick's career, then-Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee worked with him to learn to change speeds, and the organization pushed him do so as he spent most of the 2009 season at Triple-A. The pitch now is a key weapon.

"He's more of a surgeon out there," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said.

Maybe the medical reference isn't the best, since too many visits to doctors and surgeons has been a major issue around here in recent years. There are questions now, even.

The Rockies' most accomplished pitcher, lefty Jorge De La Rosa, won't begin his season until he recovers from left groin tightness. Righty Tyler Chatwood won't be available until late in the season, if at all, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. And the injury histories of key position players is voluminous. But as Spring Training closes, Kendrick sees what's possible.

Kendrick on helping new club

Colorado hopes Kendrick's example can turn potential into reality. Until De La Rosa returns, Kendrick is by far the most experienced starter. He is joined in the rotation by righty Jordan Lyles and lefty Tyler Matzek, a pair of 24-year-olds. Matzek and righties Chad Bettis, Christian Bergman, Eddie Butler and Jon Gray all bring talent, but none has thrown a full Major League season.

"We're really talented, and obviously young," Kendrick said. "We hope Jorge can get back; there's a reason he's won so many games with the Rockies. Health is a key, but I'm looking to this as a starting group with a positive outlook."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.