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Rounding the Bases With Yankees prospect: Ian Kennedy
Jake Dittler
Yankees minor league prospect Ian Kennedy, a former first round draft choice, has been one of the top pitchers in the Florida State League this season.

By Chuck King

The running joke among some minor league pitchers in the New York Yankees minor league system goes something like this: Be careful how well you pitch, you don’t want to ruin your season by getting called up.

No one is more aware of the rash of injuries to Yankees pitchers than the hurlers in the Yankees’ system.

“Every time they send somebody up there it seems like they get hurt and they call on somebody else,” Tampa Yankees pitcher Ian Kennedy said. “We’re running out of pitchers. We thought we had too many pitchers. Even at our lower levels there are guys getting hurt. I think I’m the only guy from this original rotation who is still a part of it. Everybody’s gotten hurt except for me – knock on wood.”

Kennedy better knock loudly. He’s unlikely to stay put for long.

The Yankees’ first round draft choice in 2007 out of the University of Southern California has lived up to his billing in the Florida State League. Kennedy is tied for the FSL lead in wins with five and his 1.45 ERA is currently the league’s second best.

“I’m trying to hit my spots and not worry about the results,” said Kennedy, who after signing late last season has started just 11 games in his minor league career. “My numbers have shown that every time I make my pitch, I do pretty well.”

Kennedy is not a power pitcher – his fastball is consistently clocked between 88-81 – but the righthander is hitting his spots regularly enough to strike out 64 batters in 56 innings, second best in the FSL.

His ability to control the location of his off-speed pitches has some scouts inserting Kennedy’s name in the same sentence with Greg Maddux. After watching him throw seven shutout innings against Jupiter last week, one scout from an opposing organization simply wrote “fast track” at the top of his review.

How fast? Well, the scout did not compare the two pitchers, but consider that about this time last season Philip Hughes was still pitching for Tampa.

“This kid, he knows what he’s doing,” Tampa manager Luis Sojo said. “He locates the ball very well – in and out. He’s a young kid and he’s doing that right now. He could be special.” caught up with Yankees prospect Ian Kennedy last week for this segment of Rounding the Bases.

First Base: What’s the best thing about being a New York Yankees minor leaguer?

Kennedy: The tradition. Throughout the whole organization they just expect you to win. They don’t accept anything less – which is kind of good and it can be kind of bad. You can see they are struggling at the big league level. The fans have started to panic already even though it’s a third of the way into the season. You don’t win in May, you win in October.

Second Base: What has been your favorite ballpark so far?

Kennedy: I really like ours (Legends Field). Tri City was pretty cool, too. It was the first game of a championship series. They had fans cheering against you – that makes me pitch better.

Third Base: When you pull into your hotel, what restaurant do you want to see on the corner?

Kennedy: In and Out Burger. There aren’t any out here, though. It reminds of home.

Home Plate:
What’s been the best moment of your minor league career?

Kennedy: Winning a championship in Staten Island. That was pretty fun. Even though I was only there for a week, the guys were awesome. They made me feel like I was there all year. They got me a nice ring along with it. That was nice.

Extra Bases: Roger Clemens recently bought your team a post-game spread of chicken and steak from Outback Steakhouse. Was that the best spread a big leaguer has ever bought?

Kennedy: (Hideki) Matsui and (Kei) Igawa bought a Lee Roy Selman’s barbeque spread. They had barbeque ribs, brisket and Texas toast. It was pretty good. That’s by far the best spread. We’ve had chicken, but we don’t get barbeque all the time.

Check out my blog for more on interesting minor league ballplayers, fans and promotions.



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