They do not hand out a Cy Young Award for performance in the Cactus League, and let’s face it, it would be kind of weird if they did. The games are glorified scrimmages, the rosters a mix of regulars and minor-leaguers. On most days, the best players pack their bags and leave in the middle of the game.
But if they did offer an award for pitching excellence here in Arizona, Royals starter Ian Kennedy would likely be clearing space on his mantle.
After throwing six scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, Kennedy kept his Cactus League ERA at an even 0.00 in 17 1/3 innings across four starts. He’s also struck out 19 while issuing just three walks, though he did allow one earned run in an exhibition contest against the Venezuelan World Baseball Classic team. So Kennedy is not ready to claim perfection.
“In my eyes,” Kennedy said. “I still gave up one to the Venezuela team.”
For the Royals, the good news is that Kennedy looks poised to have a solid 2017 after posting a 3.68 ERA in 33 starts last season. The bad news? This spring performance doesn’t count.
Standing at his locker on Sunday, Kennedy credited a curveball that has reached midseason form quicker than usual. He also said that the start against Venezuela and a prime-time matchup against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa helped increase his adrenaline during the monotony of camp.
“I’ve been feeling good,” Kennedy said. “My curveball came a little quicker this year. Sometimes it takes a couple more starts.”
Kennedy will make one final tune-up start Friday against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. He is slated to start the second game of the season in Minnesota, slotting in behind opening day starter Danny Duffy.
“He leads it off,” Kennedy said. “I get to follow it up and keep it up. It’ll be a lot of fun.”