May 22, 2001
Joe Kennedy is a left-handed starter in the Devil Rays system. He has been incredibly successful throughout his minor-league career, and was recently promoted to Triple-A Durham from Double-A Orlando. At Orlando, Kennedy posted a ridiculous 0.19 ERA, with 52 strikeouts, three walks, and 29 hits in 47 innings over seven starts.
Joe was kind enough to sit down and talk with Gary Huckabay before his May 18th start against Louisville.
Baseball Prospectus: You attended Grossmont Junior College out of high school. Why?
Joe Kennedy: I wasn't drafted out of high school, and I wanted to play baseball. Grossmont is in El Cajon, California, where I grew up. It has a very advanced baseball program. A lot of good ballplayers have come out of Grossmont, including Tom Fordham, David Walling, and Marcus Giles.
BP: How are you getting hitters out? Velocity change this year?
JK: During the offseason, I spent a lot of time working on my offspeed pitches with (Devil Rays Pitching Coordinator) Chuck Hernandez. I had been somewhat inconsistent with my curveball, and Chuck taught me how to be more consistent with the pitch, and also how to get more movement on it. My velocity is also up about 2 or 3 mph from where it was during 2000.
But one of the biggest things for me is really just learning more about pitching. I didn't start pitching until my senior year in high school. My first year in the pros, I walked about 40 guys in 63 innings, and as I've learned more, I've improved my control, and gotten more comfortable on the mound.
BP: Has Devil Ray management given you any specific things on which they want you to work?
JK: Not really. They just want me to keep going out and pitch the way I've been pitching.
BP: Has there been a particular coach who has been helpful? How have they been helpful?
JK: John Duffy has been a huge help. A lot of coaches have helped with things like mechanics and technique, but John has helped me with the mindset that goes with successful pitching. John has helped me with developing a plan to get a hitter out, and helped me work on my anticipation and mental preparation. I want to have an idea of what I want to do for each hitter over the course of each game.
Ed Olson at Grossmont was also very helpful. He taught me about what professional baseball would be like. That helped a lot. He worked hard to help me avoid the fear of aluminum bats. He wanted me to just go after hitters and be aggressive, and just pretend they had a wooden bat up there. Just go get 'em.
BP: How has your approach to hitters changed from league to league as you've moved up the ladder?
JK: Believe it or not, I'm trying to learn more about working on the outside of the plate. I've had the control to pitch inside, and I definitely have the confidence to work the inside half of the plate, but I want to work outside more, and focus on throwing my curve and change-up for strikes more consistently.
BP: What has the culture shock been like? You've moved up pretty quickly. Do you have a target date for making it to the majors?
JK: It's been quite a shock. There are different people everywhere you go, and the game is much quicker as you move up. The guys in Durham have been great, though. The veterans give me a hard time, but they've really helped me settle in.
I had the goal of getting a September call-up this year, and that hasn't changed.
BP: Who are some guys that you think are going to be quality major leaguers?
JK: Josh Hamilton, for sure; Carl Crawford, and one guy who's not getting a lot of press: Jim Magrane. He's Joe Magrane's cousin. Jim has great stuff, and he's pitching his tail off in Orlando. [Magrane is posting a 2.06 ERA for the Double-A Rays.]
BP: On what do you need to improve, and how are you going to do it?
JK: I need to control the outside part of the plate more, particularly against right-handed batters. I'll work on it during games, and try to mix things up a little better. I still have to be able to pitch inside, and I definitely have the confidence to do that, but I want to be able to throw outside with the fastball, curve, and change.
BP: What has taken up more of your time than you expected?
JK: The game days. In high school, you show up an hour before the game, stretch, throw, play the game, and that's pretty much it. Now, it's the life. Even on days I don't pitch, I get to the ballpark in the early afternoon, and I work. It's not just a few hours; it's 10-hour days. The amount of preparation we do is intense, and it's consuming, even without the travel.
BP: Joe, thanks very much for taking the time to sit down with us. Continued success and good health.
JK: Thank you.
Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.