Kennedy, Hudson, Collmenter to top rotation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Kirk Gibson was not afraid to mix in a curve

when setting his regular-season starting rotation on Monday.

 

Diamondbacks right-handers Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson are 1-2, as expected,

but the rest of the order was somewhat surprising. Right-hander Josh Collmenter

will open as No. 3, and will be followed by righty Trevor Cahill and left-hander

Joe Saunders. The new order flips Collmenter and Saunders from where they had

been slotted the first three weeks of spring.

 

“We obviously put a lot of thought into it,” Gibson said. “We looked at

peripherals as well, where our season’s going to start, where guys are, and

this is the decision we came up with.

 

“Everybody is going to get their 33 starts, at least, and get an opportunity.”

 

Kennedy (21-4) and Hudson (16-12) had career years in 2011 — Kennedy finished

fourth in the NL Cy Young voting — so their spots seemed set.

 

But as recently as several days ago, Gibson seemed concerned about Collmenter’s

health — he missed his second spring start because of right forearm tightness — and his fastball location. Collmenter apparently showed enough in his start

Sunday against San Diego to allay all fears.

It is unlikely spring numbers had much to do with it. Hudson leads the staff

with a 2.57 spring ERA. Kennedy is next at 3.52 after pitching seven innings

Monday, while Cahill (6.39), Saunders (9.31) and Collmenter (9.75) follow. None

has pitched more than 14 innings.

 

So it will be Kennedy, Hudson and Collmenter in the season-opening series April

6-8 at Chase Field against San Francisco, which plans to pitch Tim Lincecum, Madison

Bumgarner and Matt Cain.

 

The D-backs have an off day April 9 before a six-game road trip at San Diego

and Colorado, but Gibson said he will keep everyone in turn and not skip a

starter despite the day off.

 

“We had a lot of innings from our starters last year and our wish is that they

could go deeper into games, so we think the extra day doesn’t hurt them,”

Gibson said. “ You can look at the numbers what they do on four days’ rest,

five days’ rest, six days’ rest, etc. … I think we just look at the bigger

picture though at the cumulative effect on the year.”

 

Kennedy and Hudson had a career-high 222 innings apiece in the regular season. Kennedy

threw another 12 2/3 in two postseason starters, while Hudson worked 5 1/3 in

the playoffs. Saunders had a career-high 212 innings, plus three innings in the

postseason, while Cahill pitched 207 2/3 for Oakland.

 

Collmenter, who started in the minors and moved into the D-backs rotation in mid-May,

was 10-10 with a 3.38 ERA as a rookie last season. He moved ahead of Saunders

to the fourth spot in the 2011 NLDS against Milwaukee, but was expected to slot

in behind Saunders and Cahill this year.

 

“I’m going to pitch wherever they put me,” Collmenter said. “Just happy to be

part of everything. My goal coming into spring training was to make sure

everything I did in the offseason set me up hopefully to be in the rotation and

be a contributing factor.

 

“You still have to go out and get outs and execute your game plan. Now the book

is out on you, and you have to make sure you are that much sharper and that

much more prepared to adjust to what they are doing.”

 

Cahill, acquired from Oakland in early December, was the A’s opening day

starter in 2011, when he led the American League by averaging 2.37 ground balls

per every fly ball. He was 12-14, giving him 40 major league victories by age

24.

 

Saunders, signed a one-year, $6 million contract to return to the D-backs after

the sides could not agree to a long-term deal at the Winter Meetings. The

D-backs did not offer Saunders arbitration, making him a free agent, but re-engaged

and managed to get a deal done in mid-January. He was 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA

last season.

“I’m going to do what’s best for the team,” Saunders said. “If that’s

what they think is best, that is totally fine with me. I was told that it was

kind of a matchup thing. It was nothing about spring training.

“My only question was, I wanted to still get 33, 34 starts, and they

said that’s no problem, you are going to be out there every fifth day. They

didn’t want certain guys going back to back, so I fit in that respect. No big

deal whatsoever. I’m not getting demoted to the fifth.

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