Kennedy named D-backs' Opening Day starter

Kennedy named D-backs' Opening Day starter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he heard that D-backs manager Kirk Gibson wanted to see him early Tuesday evening, right-hander Ian Kennedy was a little nervous.

Had he not done well enough in the pickoff drills he had just participated in? Was there another problem?

Turns out there was no reason for Kennedy to worry. Gibson just wanted him to know that the manager had selected him to start Opening Day against the Rockies.

"It's just a big honor," Kennedy said. "It's something you dream about as a little kid. You want to be that Opening Day guy. It's just a big honor. I'm at a loss for words."

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Kennedy was 9-10 with a 3.80 ERA in 32 starts for the D-backs in 2010 after being acquired from the Yankees in a three-team deal that also involved the Tigers.

"He pitched very good for this ballclub last year," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said. "He finished strong. He's a pitcher; this guy has four pitches, he throws them all for strikes. I'm happy for him. It's quite an honor for a young pitcher that's got less than two years' experience in the big leagues."

Kennedy had yet to digest the news when he was asked if he thought he would prepare for the start any differently considering it will be Opening Day.

"I haven't thought about it," he said. "I'm probably just going to try and prepare as if that's just my day to start."

Gibson said Daniel Hudson would start the season's second game and Joe Saunders would slot in somewhere after that. Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright and Aaron Heilman are competing for the final two spots in the rotation.

"You guys know what he accomplished for us last year," Gibson said of Kennedy. "I just thought after what he did last year, the way he was throwing the ball and where he's at, that he was the guy, so I'm real comfortable with that."

There was some thought coming into camp that the veteran Saunders was the frontrunner to start Opening Day, but he has not pitched particularly well and a case of the flu has kept him sidelined since Friday.

"Ian's the guy that I picked and Joe I feel is a little behind right now," Gibson said. "[Saunders will] be ready for his first time through wherever it is."

It's been quite a turn of events for Kennedy the last couple of years. He came to camp last year having to battle for a spot in the rotation, and it was two years ago that he had surgery to repair an aneurysm and missed most of the 2009 season.

"It's just crazy to see what God's plan is for me," Kennedy said. "He's just taken me on this path. I'm at a loss for words I'm so thankful."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.