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Ian Kennedy no longer deserves a spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation

Ian Kennedy no longer deserves a spot in the Arizona Diamonbacks’ starting rotation.

The right-hander’s fall from Cy Young candidacy in 2011 to also-ran in 2013 has been more quick than surprising. It has also been disappointing.

Perhaps that is why the team is not yet willing to take the necessary action and remove him from the starting rotation. It’s possible they are still holding out hope, either because of belief or necessity, that the 28-year-old will suddenly rediscover what made him so effective just a couple years ago and lead the D-backs to the postseason once again.

But as the Magic 8-ball would say, don’t count on it.

Kennedy has never been a pitcher with amazing stuff. Boasting a fastball that tops out in the low 90s and no devastating off-speed stuff, one could argue his repertoire ranks near the bottom when compared to what other D-backs pitchers have to offer.

What made Kennedy so great two years ago was masterful control. In 2011, he walked 55 batters in 222 innings. Last season, in 208.1 innings, he issued 55 free passes. This season, he’s already surrendered 40 bases on balls in 108 innings of work.

Combine average stuff with a lack of control, and you get a 5.42 ERA and WHIP of 1.40.

Kennedy is very hittable, and he’s costing the D-backs.

The pitcher’s struggles nearly came to a head Sunday in a loss to the Brewers. Having allowed three runs on four hits in the first inning, and then a pair of base hits in the second, skipper Kirk Gibson came out to have a chat.

“We just talked about doing things a little differently,” Gibson said, adding that he wanted his pitcher to be more aggressive, especially with two strikes. “I know he got a little frustrated as well, so I was just trying to get him to pick it up, and he did.”

Sort of. Kennedy finished the afternoon allowing five runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings.

The right-hander’s saving grace thus far has either been blind faith or a lack of better options. Injuries have left the team’s rotation a little thin, and the most likely candidates to replace him are already in the Big Leagues. It’s possible those issues are why Kennedy is likely to start the first game after the All-Star break. However, once Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy return, Gibson, general manager Kevin Towers and co. will have a decision to make.

It shouldn’t be that difficult.

Patrick Corbin is not going anywhere and Wade Miley is likely sticking around, too. That leaves three spots available for five pitchers, and the guess here is the high-priced Cahill and McCarthy will get a chance to turn their respective seasons around.

Which then leaves one spot left for Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs or Randall Delgado, and of those three, one has pretty much pitched his way out of contention.

Though it may seem odd to just give up on a player who was the Opening Day starter just a few months ago, Kennedy simply has not come close to resembling an ace this season. In 18 starts he’s failed to complete six innings in a start more times (6) than he has completed seven innings of work (5). He’s allowed four or more runs in a start nine times, and the D-backs are 1-8 against the NL West in games he starts.

“Terrible,” Kennedy said Sunday when asked to sum up the first half of his season. “A lot of crazy things going on. Not pitching to my abilities. Every once in a while throwing well, very inconsistent.

“Inconsistent would probably be the word.”

That’s mostly accurate, except for the part about not pitching to his abilities.

Because while we all remember how excellent he was in 2011, every subsequent start seems to prove the campaign was a fluke. In 51 starts since then, Kennedy is 18-18 with a 4.50 ERA, which is about as mediocre as one can be.

By all accounts, Kennedy is a hard worker who is a solid clubhouse guy. What he’s not is a good starting pitcher, and that’s what matters most. A team that expects to be in a tight pennant race cannot afford to trot a struggling pitcher like that out to the mound every fifth day, not if it’s trying to win games.

Back in May, I wrote, “It’s high time Ian Kennedy steps up for the Arizona Diamondbacks,” lest he lose his spot in the starting rotation. Once one of the team’s other options surpassed Kennedy, I reasoned, it would be time to make a change.

That time is now.