Tagged: Opening Day

Notes from SRF: Kennedy To Start Opening Day

Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
After much anticipation, the D-backs have finally selected a pitcher to serve as their Opening Day starter on April 1 against Colorado.
One year after fighting through Spring Training attempting to crack the Major League roster, Ian Kennedy now finds himself receiving the honor of starting the first regular season game of 2011.
“You know it’s a possibility, but I knew I had a couple people in front of me,” Kennedy said. “It’s just a big honor. It’s something you dream about as a little kid. You want to be that Opening Day guy. It’s a big honor. I’m at a loss for words.” 
Last season was Kennedy’s first year in Arizona after being acquired from the New York Yankees in an offseason trade. In 2009, Kennedy missed an extended amount of time due to aneurysm surgery and pitched in only one game at the Major League level. 
As a new D-back, Kennedy did not disappoint by quickly establishing himself as a mainstay in the starting rotation. He notched nine wins and a solid 3.80 ERA in his 32 starts. In his first full season in the big leagues, Kennedy managed to throw a career high 194 innings. 
He capped off a strong first season by allowing two runs or less in six of his last nine starts. Of those nine starts, Kennedy pitched at least five innings in all but one of them. The right-hander notched 168 strikeouts, a rate of 7.8 per nine innings. 
For Kennedy, he entered this Spring with a different approach compared to years past. 
“Coming in here last year, (I was) trying to make the team,” Kennedy said. “This year, just happy that I can treat Spring Training like most guys on the roster treat Spring Training and not try to make the team. Just trying to get ready for the season. I knew the Opening Day spot was kind of up for grabs. So that was in the back of my mind that it was possible.”
This will be Kennedy’s first career Opening Day start, and he is the sixth D-backs pitcher to start on Opening Day, joining Andy Benes, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. The D-backs are confident that he is the right man for the job. 
“He pitched very good for this ball club last year,” General Manager Kevin Towers said. “He finished strong, almost logged 200 innings. He’s a pitcher. I mean this guy has four pitches. He throws them all for strikes. He’s a guy that I don’t think will have any fear for being an Opening Day starter. He’ll probably look at this start like any other start.
“He’ll go out and give you everything that he has. I’m looking for him to have some success out there. Happy for him, that’s quite an honor for a young pitcher that’s got less than two years experience in the big leagues.” 
Young heating up at plate
D-backs outfielder Chris Young is capable of hitting almost anywhere in the starting lineup. Young not only has experience in the leadoff spot, but throughout the middle part of the order as well. 
On Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants, Young was penciled in manager Kirk Gibson’s leadoff spot. In the bottom of the first, Young unloaded on a Madison Bumgarner pitch and smacked it into the lawn seating in left-center field. 
After walking in his second at bat, Young laced another extra base hit in the fifth inning, this time a double off of Giants pitcher Guillermo Mota. 
With two more hits against the Giants, Young is heating up at the plate this Spring, hitting .316 with two home runs and five doubles. The recent success has been the result of a calm approach and plenty of work for Young.
“Just trying to see the ball,” Young said. “I’ve been working a lot on my approach at the plate and in my path with my swing with (Don) Baylor quite a bit. Just trying to stay calm and patient at the plate. I’ve really been trying to see pitches this Spring and not get too aggressive.”
Young’s play earned him All-Star honors in 2010 when he represented the D-backs in Anaheim. He finished the season with impressive numbers including 27 home runs, 91 RBI and 33 doubles. 
Young hopes that consistency at the plate will help him duplicate his 2010 success.
“I did kind of find my swing per say last year, and it’s a better feeling going into the offseason knowing what you feel like you need to work on,” Young said. “This offseason I stuck with my approach, and I feel like I have it down better right now even than I did last year. So hopefully I’ll get good results from it.”  

Haren on Opening Day Start


Dan Haren met with the media Friday night in advance of his Opening Day start against the Padres on Monday at 2:10 p.m. at Chase Field.

Q: Can you give us your thoughts on Monday, Opening Day, and being on the mound?


A: It’s going to be very exciting. I’ve been looking forward to this since A.J. told me I’d be starting the first game of the year. A lot leading up to this, all of the workouts in the offseason, Spring Training and getting up early for a month and a half straight. To finally get things going will be exciting.


Q: How do you feel about this team now that Spring Training is over?


A: I feel the same way I felt coming into the spring. Our lineup is improved, bullpen is improved and I’m just looking forward to just getting out there and competing. I’m sure we’ll score more runs, play better defense and that was obviously a big key for us this spring. I’m just looking forward and I think everybody is looking forward to getting things going.


Q: (Brandon) Webb said he thinks you may have some jitters even though you’ve done this before. Do you still get them?


A: I get theme very time out. If you don’t get the jitters, something is wrong. There is a lot leading up to the game. I’m sure the night before it will be tough sleeping and I’ll wake up early with a long drive to the field. It will be nice. Once I get out there and throw a few pitches, I’m fine.


Q: Can you talk a little bit about the Padres?


A: They always give me fits. They always seem to be close games, always, especially at their ballpark and its low scoring. Adrian Gonzalez is obviously one of the best players in the league and it kind of all starts and ends with him. You try not to let him do too much damage and keep the guys off base ahead of him.


Q: Do you set goals yourself for a season?

A: Well, the No. 1 goal for me is to be healthy. If I make 33 or 34 starts, the numbers will take care of themselves. I’ve been blessed with health the last few years and hopefully again this year.


Q: Is there something special about not only Opening Day, but Opening Day at home?


A: Yeah, my first year here, I pitched the home opener, which was nice. I remember it was against the Dodgers. This will be an exciting environment here. It’s going to be fun. It’s such a change. You go from pitching in Tucson or Surprise and all these fields, and it’s such a mellow atmosphere. Then you get out here and it’s electric. I’m looking forward to it.


Q: Does it feel different when there’s 35-plus thousand in the house, and you get that big Opening Day crowd?


A: Yeah, it’s easy to get loose. The adrenaline starts pumping the second you get on the dirt and start my warm-up tosses. Its easy to get loose, easy to get going and its just a matter of controlling your emotions.





Roof Likely to Be Open Monday



The word going around is that the Chase Field roof will be open for the D-backs Opening Day game against the Padres on Monday at 2:10 p.m.


This is great news, obviously, as the ballpark always looks beautiful with the sunshine flowing in. Arizona has a very small window of time in which it’s possible to have an open roof for a day game, so it’s a nice luxury while we’ve got it. Weather.com’s 10-day forecast shows sunny with a high of 78 degrees on Monday.


The roof was generally closed for all day games up until 2007-08, when the D-backs began opening it more and more because of strong fan response. D-backs fans wanted to enjoy the sunny, warm Arizona weather, and the organization was happy to oblige.


There are many ways you can get to Chase Field for Opening Day — visit dbacks.com/tickets, call 602.462.6798 or 888.777.4664, visit the Chase Field Ticket Window or purchase them at Ticketmaster Outlets and Fry’s Food Stores.


Dan Haren will take the ball on Opening Day for the second time in his career, but the first with the D-backs. He previously started for the Oakland Athletics on Opening Day back in 2007.


Haren is making his last tune-up start today against the Texas Rangers in the D-backs’ final game at Tucson Electric Park.




— The team announced today that country music star Joe Nichols will perform the National Anthem on Opening Day. Nichols’ current hit single, “Gimmie That Girl,” is one of the hottest songs in the country right now. He has released a total of six studio albums for Universal South and has had 12 Top 20 singles on the country charts, including the No. 1 hits “Brokenheartsville” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.”


— Also, former Arizona Cardinals quarterback (and two-time league MVP and Super Bowl MVP and five-time Pro Bowler…) Kurt Warner will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.


The Grass is Greener


One more sign that baseball season is coming: the turf is being put in at Chase Field today.

This will give the sod and grass just over four weeks to set in before the D-backs play their first game on the field against the Chicago Cubs for the final two exhibition games on April 2 and 3 (those tickets go on sale Saturday, more on that below).

As of the time of this blog post, we are just 33 days away (793 1/2 hours if you want to break it down further) from the first pitch of the regular season against the Padres at Chase Field.


Regular Season Tickets On Sale Saturday

The D-backs will begin offering tickets to all 81 regular season games — including Opening Day — plus the two aforementioned games against the Cubs at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 6.

In addition to purchasing tickets at Chase Field, you can call 602.514.8400 or 1.800.777.4664 if you’re outside the Phoenix area. Additionally, you can visit dbacks.com or go to any one of the 36 Ticketmaster Retail Outlets in Arizona, including 28 Fry’s Food Stores or Fry’s Marketplace locations.

The majority of tickets will range from $8-60 and schedule highlights include Opening Day, a weekend series against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies April 23-25, a three-game interleague series against the World Series champion New York Yankees June 21-23, a Fourth of July weekend series against the Dodgers July 2-4 and a three-game set with the Cubs July 5-7.

If you want to lock in your seats before tickets go on sale Saturday, fans can buy various packages including the 6-Pack or 10-Pack Plus. The 10-Pack Plus includes tickets to any combination of 10 games, $10 in D-backs to purchase merchandise at Team Shop locations or food at any concession stand inside Chase Field, and a $5 gift card from Circle-K. Fans interested in purchasing mini-plans can go to dbacks.com/6pack or dbacks.com/10pack.