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D-backs notes: Liner forces Kennedy out early

Kennedy leaves start early after being hit in shin by liner, says he'll be fine; Gregorius progressing in rehab.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Diamondbacks Opening Day starter Ian Kennedy left Saturday's Cactus League game against the Padres earlier than expected after being hit in the left leg by a line drive, but he said afterward that he does not anticipate missing his next start.


"It feels like if you foul a ball off your ankle," Kennedy said. "We'll just treat it for next time. I don't think it will hinder my (next) start."


Kennedy had just given up three runs on a walk and back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning when Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko smashed a pitch back up the middle. The ball hit just below Kennedy's left knee and ricocheted to first base for an out.

Kennedy limped off the mound and consulted with the D-backs medical staff before leaving quickly and being replaced by Tyler Skaggs. Kennedy left for the clubhouse after the inning and iced the swelling bruise.


"That was hit pretty hard," Kennedy said. "I'm glad it wasn't a little further down on my shin; that would've hurt a lot more. It could have been a lot worse, but it hit on a good part of the bone. It got me pretty good."


Kennedy said that if it were the regular season, he would have at least tried to throw a pitch to see how he felt, but he agreed with manager Kirk Gibson's decision not to risk overcompensating for the leg and injuring his shoulder or elbow.


In regards to his effort before his early exit, Kennedy had mixed feelings. The D-backs had hoped Kennedy would go five innings Saturday as he progresses toward Opening Day, but he left after 3 2/3 innings having given up four runs on four hits with a strikeout and a walk.


"My arm felt good," Kennedy said. "My location wasn't great, especially on the homers in that one inning, but I felt like I was getting ahead and then I couldn't finish off with my pitches. There were a couple innings there where it felt like command was good."


GREGORIUS PROGRESSING


The D-backs plan to push shortstop prospects Didi Gregorius a bit this week in his rehab of a strained right ulnar collateral ligament.


Gibson said Saturday that Gregorius would likely play in minor league games for six of the next seven days to increase his at-bats as he gets closer to playing defense. Gregorius has 12 at-bats so far this spring and has collected five hits, including a pinch-hit home run as well as a three-run home run Saturday.


"What we want to make sure (is) we advance the other part of his game that he's ready to do," Gibson said.


As for defense, Gibson said Gregorius is tentatively scheduled to begin throwing across the field March 22. He has been playing long toss at 75 feet.


Gregorius, acquired in the Trevor Bauer trade, was expected to start the season in the minors, and the injury, which he suffered in December, eliminated any possibility of him competing for the major league starting job in camp. He'll likely start out at Triple- or Double-A, and Gibson expects him to be ready the second week of April, shortly after the minor league season begins.


PERALTA BACK TO CUBS


The D-backs returned right-handed pitcher Starling Peralta, a 2012 Rule 5 Draft pick, to the Cubs on Friday. Peralta, whom the D-backs paid $50,000 to select, would have had to remain on the major league roster all season, so the D-backs opted to sell him back to the Cubs when the teams couldn't agree to a trade.


Gibson seemed disappointed to lose Peralta and said the pitcher reminded general manager Kevin Towers of Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova.


"He's got a great arm, he's got a great attitude, he's got good stuff and it's quite possible that over time he'll develop into a pretty nice pitcher," Gibson said. "I know he was really disappointed to leave here, he really enjoyed it here."


Peralta, 23, appeared in three Cactus League games for the D-backs, allowing seven runs on five hits in three innings.