Gibson praises Kennedy; talks Young, lineup and reunion weekend

 (Photo by Jordan Megenhardt/Arizona Diamondbacks)

By Greg Dillard

Gibson praises ace Kennedy

Ian Kennedy has been dominant and then some throughout 2011.

He entered Thursday night’s start against San Diego with a stellar 18-4 record and a 2.96 ERA. In 194.1 innings pitched, Kennedy has struck out 167 batters.

Last season, Kennedy made a name for himself in Arizona by winning nine games and posting a 3.80 ERA in 32 starts. It was a strong first full season in the Major Leagues for the right-hander, but he’s taken to a whole new level in 2011.

“He’s sustained what he did last year,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “He’s remained healthy. He’s done everything in his power to remain healthy. His preparation is good. We’ve tried to manage his pitch counts. We’re getting into territory here where he’s going to go beyond where he’s been real soon. So we hope we’ve done the right thing to keep going. We hope he throws a lot more innings this year.”

Young back in the lineup

Gibson sat centerfielder Chris Young for two of the three games in Denver. The second half of the season has been a continuous struggle for Young at the plate.

He’s hit just .147 to go with a .274 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.

With some rest and time out of the starting lineup for Young, the skipper is confident that he’ll get things rolling at the plate.

“The kid cares so much,” Gibson said. “He’s grinding too hard, trying to hard, and it’s been a little bit counterproductive. He’s got so much pride. In his defense, from what he’s went through, he’s been a great teammate. He’s been professional. He’s shown up with a great attitude every day.”

Gibson embraces Championship Reunion Weekend

Beginning Friday, the D-backs will honor the 2001 World Championship squad with Championship Reunion Weekend. The organization will be hosting and honoring many members of that that historic squad throughout the weekend series against the Padres. The festivities come at a time when the 2011 D-backs hold a seven-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

“We respect what they did,” Gibson said. “The reality of it is we’re trying to duplicate what they’ve already accomplished here in this stadium. It’ll be great for us to have that story recreated in front of our eyes.

“It’ll be a great affirmation. It will help us understand exactly where it is we’re trying to go. It will be an honor to be able to talk to these guys and hear some of the stories. They had a great team; you can’t take it away from them.”

D-backs’ starting lineup remains a puzzle

All season long, Gibson has fielded a variety of starting lineups. Whether it’s shuffling players around on the bench, utilizing his veteran reserves, or moving batters up and down the lineup, the Arizona starting lineup is rarely ever the same.

“There’s a way that you compete as a team,” Gibson said. “It makes you better overall if you get more people involved. We just have a lot of good combinations going right now. You get in the moment; there are certain injury things that are nagging type things that you’re going to manage. There are some of the younger guys, there’s something to bringing them along.”

Left fielder Gerardo Parra batted leadoff in Wednesday’s game after hitting mostly eighth and seventh in the batting order this season. After coming off the disabled list, utility man Geoff Blum figures to find his way into the lineup every now and then. Gibson has also tried to keep shortstop Willie Bloomquist fresh by giving him occasional days off. When Bloomquist is unavailable, new D-back John McDonald has filled in at short.

Rotating and changing his starting lineup is something that Gibson bases off a variety of factors.

“You have to just think the things out and you’re addressing a lot of different things,” Gibson said. “You try to balance it out, and overall just be productive in keeping everyone involved and ready, because we could have an injury and we want people to be ready for that time. We need to be able to sustain through whatever happens.”

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