D-backs pick Kennedy to start season opener

SURPRISE, Ariz. – The math made it seem so, and Arizona Diamondbacks manager confirmed it Monday: Ian Kennedy will start the D-backs’ season opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 1, the right-hander’s third consecutive Opening Day start.

It is not lost on Gibson that Kennedy, not Clayton Kershaw, not Matt Cain, has the most victories in the National League the last two seasons.

“If everything goes right, Ian is going to start on Opening Day,” Gibson said before the D-backs lost to the Kansas City Royals 16-4 at Surprise Stadium. “He’s been great for us. I don’t know why we’d change that.”

Kennedy is to make his first spring training start Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear.

Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy — in that order — are in line to follow Kennedy, Gibson said, with the No. 5 starter to be determined. Gibson made it clear, however, that there is room for tweaking in the next few weeks, health or performance dictating. Gibson wants to have the order determined by mid-March so the starters can settle into their routines.

Kennedy has 36 victories the last two seasons, 15 last season and 21 in 2011, when he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young balloting. Kershaw has 35. Yovani Gallardo has 33. Kennedy’s 66 starts over the last two seasons are tied for No. 1 in the league.

“He’s been reliable. He’s dedicated. He did it the Diamondback way,”

Gibson said. “He has certainly done nothing to lose that position.”

Kennedy was 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA in 2012, throwing 208 1/3 innings.  He was 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2011, throwing 220 innings.

“He’s earned the right,” Diamondbacks shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. “He’s been our horse over the last couple of

years. He’s been our innings guy, our wins guy.

“He’s done a great job pitching against everybody else’s No. 1, too.

That’s what I think people fail to realize. It’s one thing to be your

team’s No. 1, but you are going against everybody else’s No. 1 most of

the time, so to still put up those kind of numbers and do those kind of

things, he is going up against a pretty good guy on the other team most

of the time.”

The D-backs open the regular season with a three-game series against St.

Louis from April 1-3 at Chase Field. After an off day, they have a

three-game series in Milwaukee before returning home for three-game

series against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Dodgers.

With off days on the fourth, 11th and 15th days of the regular season,

the D-backs could play the start of the regular season several ways,

Gibson said. They could keep an extra position player or an extra

bullpen arm, he said, if he wanted to skip the No. 5 starter the first

time around, although either scenario would create a pinch in the

rotation the second time around.

Even if the D-backs skip the fifth starter the first time, they would

need him on April 9, the 10th day of the regular season. A player who

opens the season in the minor leagues must remain there at least 10

days except in cases of injury. Gibson has not pitched a starter on

four days’ rest in his 2 1/2 seasons as manager, nor has he skipped a

starter.

“A lot of things could play out,” Gibson said.

In other pitching news, right-hander Randall Delgado, one of three candidates for the D-backs’ final

rotation spot, gave up five runs and six hits in his one inning Monday. After

retiring the first batter, Delgado gave up a double and four straight

singles, although a throwing error by third baseman Matt Davidson on an

infield hit extended the rally somewhat.

“I felt physically great but a little bit out of control. The command

was not good for me. I was leaving the ball a little bit up,” said

Delgado, who followed Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin to the mound on

the third day of spring training.

“I forget about this and try to keep focused for the next one,” he said.

The candidates for the No. 5 spot will pitch in relief the next time through the

rotation, Gibson indicated. Skaggs will pitch in relief of Kennedy on

Thursday, Corbin will follow Cahill on Friday and Delgado will pitch

behind Miley on Saturday.

NOTES

Catcher Miguel Montero was scratched from the starting lineup

because of a deep splinter in his right thumb that caused swelling and

had bothered him for several days, Gibson said. Montero is expected to play in one of the split-squad games Tuesday. … Bloomquist

started in left field, a position he played for 25 games in 2011 before

spending almost all of last year on the infield. Team USA manager Joe

Torre has said Bloomquist could see time in the outfield in the World

Baseball Classic in addition to playing in the middle infield.

Bloomquist had a single in three at-bats. … The D-backs are thin in the

outfield for the time being, with A.J. Pollock (abdomen) and Keon Broxton (hand) out.

Broxton suffered a broken hand while taking batting practice in the cage

several days before spring training opened and is expected to open the

season on the disabled list. Broxton, another product of the D-backs’ bountiful

2009 draft, had his best season at Class AA Mobile last year, hitting

.267 with 19 home runs, 21 stolen bases and 62 RBIs. He was likely to

open the season at Class AAA Reno, where he finished last year after

being promoted in the postseason. … Gerardo Parra committed his second

fielding error of the spring when a ball got past him, but Gibson said

that was partially due to Parra breaking in a new glove. “He has

such a great arm that he gets anxious,” Gibson added.