The Arizona Diamondbacks made some moves in the offseason to shore up a bullpen that struggled during the 2021 season.
Among them was signing veteran right-handed reliever Ian Kennedy.
A familiar face, Kennedy was excited to get the opportunity to be back in the Valley. He pitched for the Snakes from 2010 to 2013 and finished fourth in National League Cy Young voting in 2011.
“I’m familiar with the area,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories playing here. There are just a lot of good feels coming back wearing the Diamondbacks logo again.”
The league-imposed lockout delayed the pitcher’s signing with a team, but that did not deter the Diamondbacks’ interest in him.
“As soon as the lockout ended, they were one of the first teams to call,” Kennedy said.
During his first stint with the Diamondbacks, Kennedy was part of a rotation that included another young starter in Daniel Hudson. The two were key pieces to a Diamondbacks team that made the playoffs in 2011 by way of winning the National League West Division title.
Kennedy recalls their time on the team fondly.
“We just felt like we were two young guys just having fun, and we were,” he said. “We didn’t view it as like we’re the anchors of the staff; we just felt like part of the staff.
“I’m still chasing 2011 and that feeling I had going into the playoffs. There were so many good memories, and that’s the best time I’ve had.”
The duo’s relaxed approach often spilled over to other sports and off-field activities.
“We were probably more worried about the hitting component in our golf games on the side,” Kennedy said jokingly.
Kennedy’s career has been full of stops around Major League Baseball since his departure from the Diamondbacks after the team dealt him to the San Diego Padres during the 2013 season.
From there, he logged innings for the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies.
During the 2019 season while he was with the Royals, he was floated the idea of permanently moving to the bullpen.
“It’s just something totally different than the previous 10 to 12 years of (my career), or even my whole life of just starting,” Kennedy said. “So, it’s totally different, but I’m having a crazy amount of fun doing it.”
Though he was initially unsure of the transition to the bullpen, Kennedy now knows it was ultimately for the best.
“I really like it,” he said. “I think it gave me another life, allowed me to play longer, and gave my arm and my body a lot more life.”
Kennedy’s role on this team, he said, is not just about shoring up the back end of the bullpen. Joining a young group, Kennedy recognizes his responsibility to pass his experience down to the younger players.
“To be able to pass on the knowledge of what I’ve done, of what I’ve seen, what I’ve tried, what didn’t work, what did work, and being able to watch guys and give that advice,” Kennedy said. “Helping as best as I possibly can is what I really enjoy now.”
This new role is something that he is not looking to shy away from. Instead, he is embracing it.
“I’m comfortable being in this scenario where I get to help young guys,” Kennedy said. “That doesn’t scare me. I find joy in that.”
With the team in a rebuild mode, one of the things Kennedy and the veterans of the roster are looking to instill is a different attitude going into games.
“You also have to help guys be winners,” Kennedy said. “If we’re going in there already beat before we get there, you have to help change that mentality.”
Going beyond just helping the younger players from a baseball perspective, Kennedy is committed to assisting his teammates in any way needed.
“I come in every year thinking of that,” he said. “If I go in there, start focusing on other guys, whether it’s helping with off-the-field stuff or on-the-field things.
“Me personally, that’s when I’m like, ‘My personal things will be to the side.’ I want to be the best team I possibly can.”