Ian Kennedy ‘happy to set up’ D-backs closer, old friend Mark Melancon

Mar 17, 2022, 11:24 AM | Updated: 12:01 pm
Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Ian Kennedy throws a bullpen the day before the start of spring training a...
Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Ian Kennedy throws a bullpen the day before the start of spring training at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 16, 2022. (Arizona Sports Photo/Jake Anderson)
(Arizona Sports Photo/Jake Anderson)

SCOTTSDALE — Right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy is back with the Arizona Diamondbacks nearly nine years after he was traded at the deadline in 2013.

And not only is he back with a former club, but Kennedy is also reunited with a longtime friend and teammate in D-backs closer Mark Melancon.

The duo goes back to 2005 when they were playing for Team USA before being drafted by the New York Yankees in 2006. Kennedy was taken with the No. 21 overall pick, while Melancon got selected in the ninth round.

Separated since 2009, Kennedy was more than willing to reconnect as set-up man for Melancon when the Diamondbacks reached out to him in free agency.

“I’m happy to set up for Mark, who I saw do it for so long. … Being able to go pitch before him and just hand it over to him is great,” Kennedy said Wednesday. “He’s one of the best around in the league I think and I think a lot of people believe that.

“I knew when (the D-backs) were calling that (closer) is Mark’s job. So what’s the role? Let’s talk about that first,” he added. “I kind of knew that and I’m glad to do it for him because he’s so good at it and he’s such a professional. He works hard, he’s a great leader in the clubhouse too. So I’m happy to pitch in front of him and hand over the game to him.”

Kennedy said he almost signed with Arizona last season, but that didn’t end up working out. He instead joined the Texas Rangers.

The Diamondbacks announced on Wednesday that the team had officially signed the RHP to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2023. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the deal is worth $4.75 million, with $2.35 million in incentives.

“Sometimes the industry kind of points you in that direction, but (the D-backs) were really aggressive,” Kennedy said. “They showed that they believed in me. … This year as soon as the lockout ended, they were one of the first teams that called.

“Any team that really believes in you and keeps calling in pursuit, I felt it’s nice to be wanted. That’s probably the main reason why I came here. They know me pretty well and I know a lot of these guys too.”

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo and Co. are hoping that the combo of Kennedy and Melancon can alleviate some of Arizona’s bullpen issues. Last season saw Diamondbacks relievers hold the third-highest ERA in the league, and not one bullpen arm finished with more than six saves.

“I’ve heard so many good things about him from everybody inside of this industry about his makeup, his ability to be a great teammate,” Lovullo said of Kennedy on Wednesday. “What I do know is his ability to compete. I’ve been able to watch that from the other dugout for many, many years.

“He’s unfolding here — he’s just getting to know the guys, know the routine. I’ll get a chance to sit down and get to know him on another level. But from what I saw today, he’s in a good spot and I’m really excited to have him.”

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