Third Opening Day nod still a thrill for Kennedy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — No matter how many times he gets to do it, Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy insists starting on Opening Day will never lose its luster.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson confirmed Kennedy as his Opening Day starter Monday, and Kennedy said Tuesday it was still a thrill when Gibson told him.

“It never gets old,” Kennedy said. “The third time you’re being told you’re the Opening Day starter is still a really, really cool thing. Like I always say, when you’re a kid, you see the Opening Day starters and you want to be them one day.

“I’ve been really blessed to get to do it three times.”

Kennedy will take the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 1, likely opposite Adam Wainwright, who is the assumed Opening Day starter for the Cardinals. This will be the D-backs first opener against a team outside the NL West since 2008.

Kennedy knows he’ll feel some jitters come April 1, though perhaps a bit less than previous years.

“Last year, my second time, it was a little less nerves than the first time,” Kennedy said. “You still get nervous because it’s the first game, they always have something special before the game. It always makes it a little more comfortable pitching at home.”

Kennedy begins the season hoping to improve on a somewhat inconsistent 2012 campaign in which he went 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA while struggling at times with his command. That followed a stellar 2011 season in which he finished 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting.

“Looking back now, and even at the end of the season, if you were to tell me ’15 wins, 200 innings, regardless of ERA or other stats, how would you feel?’ I would take that in a heartbeat,” Kennedy said. “Winning 15 games is really hard to do.

“I was, overall, content. I wouldn’t say I was joyful about how the season went, but it definitely gave me the drive this offseason to get better.”

Kennedy already has the third most Opening Day starts for a pitcher in franchise history, behind Randy Johnson’s six and Brandon Webb’s four. He’ll have plenty of family at Chase Field to watch his third, including his wife’s family, which is made up of Cardinals fans.

“They’re not Diamondbacks fans,” Kennedy said. “They ‘support’ the Diamondbacks, but their heart belongs to the Cardinals, so I don’t know if they’re going to be staying at my house. They better be rooting for us.”

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Catcher Miguel Montero missed his second straight Cactus League game Tuesday with a swollen right thumb. Gibson said Montero would “hopefully” be ready to play Wednesday against the Reds.

The thumb issue started with a deep splinter, and Gibson said there was concern Monday the area had become infected, but the swelling had reduced Tuesday.

“It’s much better,” Gibson said. “They’re treating it, and it seems to be getting calmed down.”