CLEARWATER, Fla. - After Team USA's Dustin Pedroia singled in the third inning of yesterday's exhibition, Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick raised his arms skyward and shook his head. It was the third consecutive hit he had allowed, and his second emotional outburst.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee, who watched Kendrick become unhinged many times last season, quickly trotted to the mound and scolded the pitcher. Dubee had noticed a similar gesture moments before: After Kendrick made a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, he raised his hands in the air. When Kendrick displayed his frustration again following Pedroia's hit, Dubee left the dugout to share his annoyance.
"He threw his arms up like, poor me, or whatever, and that doesn't show control of your emotions," Dubee said after the game. The question about Kendrick was directed at manager Charlie Manuel, but Dubee was in the room and decided to offer a sharp, unsolicited answer.
"He still needs better body language," Dubee said after the 9-6 loss. "He looks a little frail at times . . . [The actions are] showing the other team that you're scuffling."
He added: "That's not acceptable behavior."
Kendrick's afternoon was a miniature version of the 2008 season that he is trying so desperately to forget: smooth early but ruined by an implosion at the end. After posting an 8-3 record in the first half, Kendrick fell into a late-summer slump that resulted in his eventual demotion. Yesterday's outing, and the behavior that annoyed Dubee, could not have helped his campaign to win the final spot in the Phillies' rotation, or validate the 24-year-old's claim of newfound maturity.
"I shouldn't have done that," he said of his body language. "I kind of let my emotions get me."
Dubee emphatically agreed, and also wished he had seen more improvement on Kendrick's change-up. Dubee has implored Kendrick to develop the change-up as a tool to keep lefthanded hitters off-balance, but Kendrick has been reluctant to throw the pitch in his two exhibition starts.
"I really didn't throw it as much as I'd like," Kendrick said.
"I would have liked to have seen a little more improvement on it," Dubee said. "He only threw one for a strike."
Kendrick's struggles came after he excelled in the first two innings against a formidable lineup. Facing Jimmy Rollins, Pedroia, Chipper Jones, and David Wright in the first, he retired the first two, and after Jones reached on a Ryan Howard error, Kendrick induced Wright to pop up.
But the third inning defined his day as he allowed four runs. It left a strong impression on the coach who last month deemed Kendrick the front-runner for the fifth starter's job. "I haven't been evaluating them yet," Dubee said. "Gun just went off. Race is on."