Joe Kennedy truly is happy to be here.
From the concern of injury to the frustration of having what was expected to be a two-week stay on the disabled list turn into six, Kennedy is eager to resume a season that seems to have gone astray.
The left-hander, 24, has had the honor of pitching opening day; the thrill of his best major-league performance, a one-hit complete game May 2 at Detroit; the agony of his worst, allowing 10 runs in four-plus innings May 7; and the worry of walking off the mound May 31 with discomfort and a pinching in his left shoulder.
"It's been a while; I want to get back out there and actually earn my money," Kennedy said. "This year has been a nice little roller-coaster ride. Hopefully I can get on a little bit of a high and stay up there for a while."
It was tough work for Kennedy to be the No. 1 starter but, as the saying goes, somebody had to do it. He showed flashes of dominance, such as the dazzling game against the Tigers, but was inconsistent for much of the season. He was 1-3 with a 9.45 ERA in the five starts after Detroit, making it through five innings once, and had allowed an American League-high 91 hits and 44 earned runs (in 67 innings) at the time of his injury.
After two minor-league rehabilitation starts, he returns to the rotation today with a 3-5 record and 5.88 ERA optimistic he can salvage something positive out of the season.
"Definitely," Kennedy said. "It'll be good to get back and contribute to the team and hopefully run off some wins. I want to make the rest of my starts, stay healthy and not go back on the DL and finish strong. If everything goes well I still have probably 15-18 starts left, 110-120 innings. Even if you have a good two or three starts to finish up it can be a good year if you're healthy at the end."
Kennedy said he could deal with being on the disabled list initially but grew more unhappy as it became an extended stay.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "When you sit there and watch the team play and you're not out there, it gets frustrating. You want to be out there. The first couple weeks were all right; I knew I was hurt and I needed to rehab to get back. But it kept getting longer and longer and more frustrating. That's the hard part. You want to be back out there and you have to keep telling yourself you're not ready, and that's even more frustrating."
The rotation has stabilized with the emergence of Jeremi Gonzalez, the resurgence of Victor Zambrano and the addition of Jason Standridge, and the team is ready to get back Kennedy.
"He was our opening day pitcher, the big winner on our staff from last year," manager Lou Piniella said. "Our staff will definitely be improved with Joe in it."
Piniella plans to have Kennedy at the front of the rotation to start the second half, though there could be a question about how long he stays with the trade deadline approaching. Toronto and Cincinnati are rumored to be expressing interest.