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Kennedy heading to pen

The opening day starter, still mystified by his struggles, gets pulled from the rotation after another poor start.

MARC TOPKIN
Published August 31, 2003

OAKLAND, Calif. - Joe Kennedy doesn't know what's wrong.

But he thinks he might be trying too many things to make it right.

"That might be the problem," Kennedy said. "I might be trying to do too much instead of just going out there and pitching.

"I moved to the other side of the rubber. I tried to use more legs. I tried to get on top of the ball. Maybe a little sidearm. I guess it's just one of those years. Hopefully I can bounce back."

Any pitching Kennedy, 24, does the rest of this season likely will be from out of the bullpen. After he struggled Friday in his latest start, leading directly to the Devil Rays' 5-2 loss to Oakland, manager Lou Piniella said Kennedy would be taken out of the rotation and used in middle relief.

"Sometimes a stint in the bullpen can get you to relax a little bit," Piniella said Saturday.

The demotion caps a stunningly disappointing season for Kennedy, who was the Rays' opening day starter coming off his first full season in the major leagues but who won three times in 21 games, none since May 13.

"It's frustrating," Kennedy said. "It's been frustrating because I'm trying to do too much instead of sitting back and relaxing and just letting my arm and body do what it can do."

Kennedy, who spent six weeks on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, said he's in good shape - "Probably the best shape I've been in since I hit puberty" - and his arm feels fine.

"I'm not throwing hard like I did last year or the year before, but it doesn't hurt," Kennedy said. "I'm just not getting any velocity, which is not always a bad thing."

Pitching coach Chris Bosio said Kennedy's struggles are the result of a combination of problems.

"I think he's fighting to try to do things, and that might be the root of it all," Bosio said. "Being frustrated is expected because there have been a lot of expectations on him. Sometimes you look at a guy and say, "Is it mechanical, is it mental?' I think right now it's a little bit of everything. I think he's really pressing to try to get it done."

Kennedy's numbers for the season are brutal: a 3-11 record, a 6.60 ERA, a .310 opponents average and a whopping 207 baserunners allowed (156 hits, 42 walks, nine hit batters) in 1182/3 innings.

He insists the numbers don't tell the story.

"I think I'm pitching fine, I'm just not getting any results, not having any luck," Kennedy said. "You know how people say it's better to be lucky than good? I wish I was a little more lucky this year."

Kennedy wasn't surprised by the demotion, as Piniella has been considering it for a month or so.

"To his credit he has not given up, he has not given in, he's continuing work hard," Bosio said. "He's in one of those ruts right now that he's got to try to get himself out of."

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