Phillies lose as Cubs pound struggling Kendrick

Phillies lose as Cubs pound struggling Kendrick

September 1, 2013, 7:15 pm
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Kyle Kendrick is 3-8 with a 6.23 ERA over his last 12 starts after struggling in the Phillies' 7-1 loss to the Cubs. (AP)

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CHICAGO -- Phillies management is staring at a bit of a conundrum with Kyle Kendrick.

The right-hander will be eligible for salary arbitration for the final time this winter.

Kendrick is durable -- he has never been on the disabled list -- and there is value in that. Teams need guys that can consistently answer the bell and make their starts. With serious questions looming after Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in the rotation for next season, it would seem to be a given that the Phils would want Kendrick back next season.

But is he going to be worth the $8 million -- give or take -- that he could make in arbitration? A few months ago, the answer would have been yes. But Kendrick has struggled for two months now and that has to give management some pause about the right-hander’s future. The struggles are probably also costing Kendrick some money.

We’ll see how things work out later in the fall.

Of more immediate note, Kendrick took another loss Sunday when the Chicago Cubs made it two straight wins over Ryne Sandberg and the Phillies. The Cubs got to Kendrick for three runs in the fourth inning en route to a 7-1 win (see Instant Replay).

Without Michael Young, traded to the Dodgers hours earlier, the Phillies had just four hits. Young had seven hits in the first two games of the series before heading to Los Angeles.

“The way he’d been going, you miss a bat like that,” Sandberg said. “He helped us win some games on this trip.”

The Phils went 3-4 on the seven-game trip. They are 9-8 since Sandberg took over for Charlie Manuel.

Sandberg’s lineup Sunday included just two players -- Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins -- who’ve been regulars in their major-league careers. The rest of the lineup was made up of reserves, career minor-leaguers and players who are basically on tryouts. One of those auditioning players, Darin Ruf, clubbed his 12th homer (in 172 at-bats) for the Phillies’ only run. Cubs’ right-hander Jake Arrieta benefitted from a weak Phillies’ lineup and a good cut fastball to pitch 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and get the win.

Ruf’s homer in the fourth cut Chicago’s lead to 2-1, but the Cubs pounded Kendrick in the bottom of the inning to take control.

Kendrick gave up three straight hits -- a single and two doubles -- to open the frame. He also hit a batter and allowed a sacrifice fly as the Cubs scored three times.

Sandberg opined that Kendrick did not have his good sinker and got in trouble with too many “thigh-high” pitches. Kendrick had just three groundouts to go with four strikeouts in six innings.

“Nah,” Kendrick said when asked if his sinker was the problem. “In that one inning, I fell behind in the count too much.”

Kendrick allowed back-to-back doubles in the fourth, one on a full-count pitch, the other on a 3-1 pitch.

Over his last 12 starts, dating to the end of June, Kendrick is 3-8 with a 6.23 ERA. He has allowed a whopping 94 hits in 65 innings.

Hence, the aforementioned conundrum.

Before hitting the skids, Kendrick had opened the season with a 10-6 record and a 3.46 ERA in his first 16 starts. He had allowed 101 hits in 106 2/3 innings over the span.

And before that, over the final two months of last season, Kendrick was 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 starts. He gave up just 60 hits in 70 1/3 innings.

Clearly, the guy can be a solid member of a big-league rotation. He has shown it. But has he shown it long enough to warrant the big coin he might get in salary arbitration? Are his recent struggles enough to make management consider not offering him a contract? Or will they simply deny him the big raise he’d been in line for? Kendrick is making $4.5 million this season. Given the lack of depth in the Phillies’ rotation, it’s difficult to envision Kendrick being non-tendered. But if his problems continue …

“I just have to keep pitching,” he said. “Things will turn around, hopefully sooner than later.”