Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy will look a little bit different when he takes the mound Friday night at AT&T Park against the San Francisco Giants.
According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, the former 21-game winner shaved off his scruffy, red beard during the All-Star break in the hopes that a new look might turn his 2013 season around.
A nice thought, but it might not be that easy.
Kennedy pitched in the team’s finale before the break last Sunday and allowed five runs on nine hits in a 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. It was just the latest in a long line of brutal outings he’s labored through this season.
Through 18 starts, the D-backs’ Opening Day starter is 3-6, owns the second highest ERA (5.42) among qualified National League starting pitchers and hasn’t found himself on the left side of the win-loss column since June 1.
When asked what Kennedy needs to do to right the ship over the final 67 games, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson focused his attention on the right-hander’s approach rather than his now seemingly lack of facial hair.
“He needs to mix it up, he needs to use all quadrants of the plate,” Gibson said of Kennedy, who allowed five hits with two strikes in the first two innings against the Brewers. “I don’t know this, but I think it happened in the Dodgers series [at Chase Field], he just started throwing the ball and was more predictable.
“He needs to throw it more freely.”
Kennedy’s ability to throw it freely has likely been hindered in recent weeks after he was suspended 10 games for inciting a brawl — hit Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke in back-to-back innings with pitches up and in — between the D-backs and Dodgers back on June 11.
While the reluctance to go inside on a regular basis is somewhat understandable, Gibson noted that Kennedy needs to go back to throwing the ball with more aggression and variety.
“You have to mix it up, you’ve got to throw the ball inside,” said Gibson. “It’s not that you throw it there all the time, but you’ve got to mix it up.
“There is in and out, up and down. He was more effective that way. You’ve got to be more aggressive out of the gate.”
If recent history is any indication, Kennedy has it in him to turn things around.
After a miserable first half in 2012, the six-year veteran went 9-4 with 10 quality starts over the final two-plus months of the regular season.
He’ll try to replicate that success beginning Friday night in a stadium he hasn’t lost in since Sept. 2010.