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Kendrick positive after tough start

Kendrick positive after tough start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Before reading the rest of this text, please make note of the March 9 date.

For that reason only, Kyle Kendrick isn't nervous, depressed, angry, fearful or concerned about his second subpar Grapefruit League performance. This isn't to suggest that he doesn't care, just that he understands the role of a big league Spring Training is to prepare for the regular season.

"I'm not worried about anything," Kendrick said, remaining as affable and confident as ever. "Obviously, I don't want to pitch like that. I want to have good outings. I'm not going to panic."

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Now, if this "kept going until June," Kendrick might start thinking about a trip to the Minors. The 23-year-old got pelted for six runs on seven hits in two innings Sunday, boosting his Grapefruit League ERA to 16.43 and prompting whispers that hitters have figured out the repertoire that helped the righty to a 10-4 record and a 3.84 ERA in 20 starts last season.

That success has guaranteed the righty a job in the starting rotation. He's already been told that he's starting April 3, in the team's third game of the season.

"We're counting on Kendrick," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He did a heck of a job and deserves a chance to show he's for real. He showed us that last year. I don't see any reason he shouldn't stay in our rotation. I want the kid to have the confidence he's always had, so we'll keep him right where he's at."

Kendrick's outing on Sunday had elements of Tuesday's equally disappointing day against the Braves. The righty is concentrating on his secondary pitches -- especially a changeup -- and throwing fewer fastballs early in the count as a result.

He's been missing with those pitches, then going to his fastball, which now has become much easier to predict.

"He was missing his location working the changeup and that made it tough for him," catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "He wasn't throwing as many fastballs."

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The results, then, are easy to predict, as well.

"The main thing, I've fallen behind in counts and had to go to my fastball and left it up," Kendrick said. "I have to get ahead in counts and keep the ball down. I wanted to work on my changeup, but the command isn't where it was last year."

Kendrick only has to look a few feet away to see an example of Spring Training overanalysis: Cole Hamels had a forgettable Grapefruit League last season, then won 15 games. Hamels, who is having another poor spring, has reminded Kendrick of this. Veteran Jamie Moyer has also gotten in his ear about using this time for preparation.

And while last year's success is past, Kendrick said he's not adding to his mental strife by raising expectations.

"I'm not putting any more pressure on myself," Kendrick said. "Like I've said all spring, I'm trying to build off last year. I'm getting hit a little bit, but I know what I'm doing. It's a good thing it's March and these numbers don't count."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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