PHOENIX -- Wednesday night against the Atlanta Braves, D-backs starter Ian Kennedy not only twirled a career-best seven shutout innings, he threw 114 pitches. The 25-year-old right-hander has now thrown 100-plus pitches in 11 of his 13 starts this season, but he's certainly not alone in the department.
Staff ace Dan Haren averages 110 throws per start this season, with Edwin Jackson (103), Kennedy (105) and Rodrigo Lopez (97) following behind. Arizona starters as a group average 101 pitches per game, which is the third most among National League clubs.
"I've been pushing these starters quite a bit," manager A.J. Hinch said Thursday morning, before adding, "The 100-pitch count is glossy and a big number that everybody circles, but 110 or 115, depending on how they get there, is fine."
Take Kennedy as an example: He has reached triple digits in five innings (which is obviously more taxing than when spread over six or seven innings) on three separate occasions this season. The only other D-backs pitcher to throw 100-plus pitches in five innings or less is Lopez, though he's done it just once, on April 14.
Because Arizona is idle on Monday -- following its three-game home series against the St. Louis Cardinals -- Hinch said he would consider keeping his pitchers on turn, giving each an extra day's rest.
"It's possible we could tweak it depending on how these starters' outings are going," he said before Dontrelle Willis' second appearance in a D-backs uniform on Thursday. "The off-day allows me to make decisions. With that in mind, I can extend a guy."
Such was the case June 1, when Haren threw a season-high 126 pitches in eight shutout innings, the manager said, because the team's No. 1 starter would have six days of rest entering his June 7 outing.
Speaking of the rotation, one through five may finally be set. Unfortunately for Kris Benson, he's not among them. While Willis sparkled in his D-backs debut (six shutout innings and a win) last Saturday, it appears Benson may have missed the boat. In his fourth rehab start on Tuesday -- he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right (throwing) shoulder on April 28 -- Benson allowed four earned runs in four frames.