The favorite to open the 2010 baseball season as the Phillies' temporary fifth starter began his Friday with a strenuous morning workout with a personal trainer at IMG Academy baseball program in Bradenton, Fla.
Afterward, pitcher Kyle Kendrick had lunch with the old fellow that he could be filling in for come April, longtime mentor and teammate Jamie Moyer.
"I love this facility I'm working out at," Kendrick said by phone. "I've been throwing, getting in shape + getting ready to go. It's been great."
Seemingly deep in the Phillies' doghouse this time a year ago, Kendrick made the most out of spending almost all of 2009 in Triple-A, then opened eyes by pitching very well in a September call-up + so well that he was on the club's first-round playoff roster.
And now with the 47-year-old Moyer headed for knee surgery on Monday and likely to miss the start of the 2010 season, Kendrick probably will be heading to spring training next month needing only to beat out inexperienced youngster Drew Carpenter and non-roster long shot Ryan Vogelsong for the No. 5 starter.
"Hopefully, I showed them something when I came up in September," the 25-year-old right-hander said. "I know I showed myself that I can pitch up there. I still have to work, though, and have a good spring. My goal is to make that team, obviously."
A surprise call-up from Double-A as a 22-year-old in June 2007, Kendrick was 21-13 over his first two big-league seasons. But after posting a solid 3.87 ERA as a rookie, Kendrick's ERA ballooned to 5.49 ERA in 2008, thanks to a late-season slump that cost him his spot in the rotation and berth on the postseason roster.
When the struggles continued last spring, Kendrick wound up back in the minors. He was bummed out, for sure, but worked hard at improving his pitches and refining his mechanics. The result was good numbers at Lehigh Valley (9-7, 3.34 ERA, 24 starts), a return trip to the big leagues in September, then more success with the Phillies. In nine outings, two as a starter, he was 3-1 record, 3.42 ERA in nine outings.
After the season, Kendrick returned home to suburban Seattle feeling a lot better about his game.
"No question ... mentally and physically," he said.
These days, Kendrick is happy with life. Besides feeling good again about his career, he's planning a wedding for next winter with his fiancee, reality television star Stephanie LaGrossa.
Just last week, CBS confirmed that LaGrossa will participate in her third season of Survivor, this time as a hero in "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains." The series, shot last fall in Samoa, will begin being aired on Feb. 11. A fan favorite, LaGrossa finished seventh and second in her first two tries.
"She told me a little bit about what happened, but I really don't know much at all," he said. "I've never really watched Survivor before, so it'll be fun to follow it and see how she does."
It should be interesting to see how Kendrick does next season, as well. Regardless of what happens in April, Kendrick seems a pretty good bet to end up with a job in the Phillies bullpen at some point. Since the end of the 2009, the Phillies have parted ways with four veteran relievers - Chan Ho Park, Scott Eyre, Brett Myers and Clay Condrey - and added just one, Danys Baez. A free agent, Myers agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with Houston late last week.
"Obviously, I love starting," Kendrick said. "It's kind of what I came up doing. But I think I showed them that I can pitch out of the 'pen, too. I just want to be with the team and have a good year, whether it's in the bullpen or starting."