The KC Royals will soon look towards spring training 2.0 as a way to get ready for the season and assess who will be in the lineup.
If KC Royals fans can remember all the way back to the initial spring training of 2020, many may recall that there were some performances to be excited about. Many young pitchers saw some good innings and looked to be progressing well.
There were also lots of hard-hit balls flying around the stadiums as players like Jorge Soler managed to continue his power streak. Much of the focus, though, was on the players most likely to be in the bullpen for 2020, a spot that has struggled for the past few years.
Players like Josh Staumonth and Trevor Rosenthal made things look easy, touching high speeds without issue and missing bats left and right. One bullpen option though that many saw to be a lock seemed to struggle. This pitcher was Ian Kennedy.
Kennedy, most probably remember, struggled during his first few seasons with the Royals. Trying to add some needed pitching power after the World Series win, the Royals signed Kennedy to a long contract that they soon realized wasn’t paying off.
After a not terrible, but not great 2016, the seasons started to get less and less productive. In 2019, though, Kennedy found his sweet spot. The Royals started the season with a lot of unknowns floating around the bullpen and nobody had a concrete spot.
Luckily, Kennedy found progress in the closing role. He managed 30 saves in 2019 and held his ERA at 3.41, striking out 10.4 per 9 innings and walking only 2.4 per 9, his best numbers in years. With more time on his contract, Kennedy looked to be the perfect fit for a team that needed a consistent closer.
When spring training started to begin the season initially, things still looked the same. Some other names had popped up that could possibly challenge Kennedy for the closing role, but as long as he maintained, the job would likely stay his.
Unfortunately, he got off to a rough start before spring training was suspended. Kennedy pitched 5.1 innings with an ERA of 8.44, giving up 5 runs, 2 home runs, and striking out only 1.7 batters per 9. This was a huge change from the confident closer fans saw just a few months prior.
Luckily for Kennedy, he now gets a second chance to prove that he can continue his success. Spring training 2.0 should be kicking off next week and players will have to prepare for the 2020 season. Many players will be under the microscope to see where they will fit in for the shortened season, and Kennedy is sure to be one of them.
If players like Staumont and Rosenthal can continue to show good form and velocity, while Kennedy struggles, the closing job will be theirs for the taking. But, if Kennedy can bounce back and regain his 2019 form, he will have a chance to keep his role for another year.
Kennedy struggled to begin the season, but spring training 2.0 is a whole new ballgame. Players will have to be evaluated again after months of rest and work on their own. Kennedy may turn a few heads and secure his spot once training resumes.