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Kennedy slated to start third straight season opener

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- For the third straight year, Ian Kennedy will get the ball on Opening Day for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kennedy will be followed in the rotation by Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and Brandon McCarthy. The frontrunners for the fifth spot are Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado.

Of course, with more than a month to go before the April 1 opener against the Cardinals, all plans are tentative.

"If everything goes right, Ian's going to start Opening Day," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's been great for us. I don't know why we'd change that."

Kennedy is slated to make his first start of spring on Thursday. The team pushed back its projected starters until after the first five spring games, so they would each have six spring starts rather than seven.

In the opener last year against the Giants, Kennedy picked up the 5-4 win after allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings. On Opening Day of 2011, he got a no-decision as the D-backs beat the Rockies, 7-6. Kennedy also allowed three runs over six innings in that contest.

In 2011, Kennedy was 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and finished fourth in the balloting for the National League Cy Young Award.

Last year, he struggled to find consistency with his command and wound up going 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA.

"He's certainly done nothing to lose that position," Gibson said. "That's how I look at it."

While Gibson said the order behind Kennedy could potentially change, he would like it to be as set as possible by mid-March. This way, projected starters have some time to get used to their every-fifth-day routine.

Kennedy, Cahill and Miley will face the Cardinals in the team's opening series at Chase Field, which leaves McCarthy to start the first road contest against the Brewers.

There is an off-day in between the St. Louis and Milwaukee series, so it is possible that the D-backs could skip the fifth spot in the rotation the first time around. In this scenerio, the fifth guy could start on April 9 against the Pirates at home. Or, they could stick with a strict five-man rotation, which Gibson has tended to do in the past, so the fifth starter would pitch April 6 in Milwaukee.

"There's a lot of things that could happen," Gibson said.

As for who that fifth starter will be, Gibson has said the spot is wide open and while Corbin, Skaggs and Delgado are the main candidates, right-hander Charles Brewer is not to be counted out.

Randy Johnson has started the most Opening Days in D-backs history, getting the nod in six straight seasons, from 1999-2004. Brandon Webb is second on the list with four. Kennedy is the only other pitcher to have as many as two Opening Day starts under his belt.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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