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It’s high time Ian Kennedy steps up for the Arizona Diamondbacks

Daniel Hudson is getting closer to making things a lot more interesting for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The pitcher, who is working to return after Tommy John surgery, threw to opposing batters for the first time last week and reportedly looked pretty good in the process. Assuming there are no real setbacks in his recovery, the 26-year-old could find his way back into the rotation as soon as sometime next month.

Assuming, of course, the Diamondbacks have a place for him. As of now there isn’t one, and if the plan is for Hudson to re-join the rotation, someone is going to have to get the boot. But who?

Well, it won’t be Patrick Corbin, as the second-year pro has turned into the club’s ace. And it isn’t likely to be Wade Miley or Trevor Cahill, as both have been solid this season. Brandon McCarthy, who would have seemed like the easy (based on numbers) choice, seems to have righted the ship.

That leaves Ian Kennedy, but could he really be the odd man out?

The team’s Opening Day starter each of the last three seasons, Kennedy just hasn’t been that good of late. In fact, he hasn’t been particularly good since 2011, when he won 21 games, posted an ERA of 2.88 and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. It was a season that seemingly came out of nowhere, and is proving more and more to be the exception rather than the rule.

Since that season, Kennedy has produced a 17-15 record to go along with a 4.17 ERA. Not terrible, not particularly good. Average, really. However, his 4.70 ERA in 2013 represents his worst mark since becoming a full-time Major League starter, and with his walk rate up and his strikeout rate down. The D-backs are 5-5 in games he’s started.

That’s as mediocre as it gets, and for a team that will go only as far as its pitching takes them, mediocre will not be enough.

The good news, at least for Kennedy, is that Hudson is not anywhere close to breathing down his neck. There is still time to turn his season around, and while no one should expect his 2011 form, there’s nothing that says he can’t find a level somewhere in between.
If he doesn’t?

Well, as suggested last week, perhaps D-backs GM Kevin Towers will look to deal his 28-year-old right-hander. Though Kennedy is under team control through 2015, his production may not necessarily equal his production. Would a trade be the best way to free up some room in the rotation?

Probably, leaving the only question as to when a deal or two will be made.

Because along with Hudson’s inevitable return will be the arrival of some of the young hurlers from the team’s farm system. Tyler Skaggs is not long for the minor leagues, whereas Archie Bradley, David Holmberg and Andrew Chafin could all find their way into the Major League roster in the next couple of years.

All of those pitchers — and Hudson, too — are unproven commodities at the moment. But the second one of them surpasses Kennedy as an option in the rotation, the D-backs will have to start examining their options with regards to who they will turn to every fifth day.