An MRI revealed that Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy has a Grade 2 calf strain, manager Mike Matheny tells reporters (Twitter link via Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com). The team expects that he’ll need a minimum of three weeks to recover. That doesn’t technically close the door on Kennedy’s 2020 season, but it now seems quite doubtful that he’ll be able to make it back.
It’s been a rough season for the 35-year-old Kennedy, who has yielded 14 runs through 14 innings of work for the Royals. While he’s still missing bats (15 punchouts) and exhibiting solid control (five walks, one intentional), he’s also been tagged for seven big flies already in that tiny sample.
Kennedy has had an up-and-down tenure since signing a surprising five-year, $70MM contract with the Royals prior to the 2016 season. He pitched well in his first year with the club, logging 195 2/3 frames with a 3.68 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning — precisely the type of performance for which the Royals hoped when he put pen to paper. Kennedy’s effectiveness dipped over the next two years, however, as he stumbled to a 5.06 ERA and allowed an average of 1.78 homers per nine frames.
Expectations were relatively minimal when the Royals moved Kennedy to the bullpen in the 2018-19 offseason, but the righty looked rejuvenated in a late-inning role. Kennedy ultimately emerged as the Royals’ closer, pitching to a 3.41 ERA with 10.4 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 while racking up 30 saves. The Royals even received some trade interest in Kennedy last summer as the deadline approached, but they preferred to hang onto their veterans rather than pay down salaries in trades that would net them marginal returns.
The 2020 season was the last of Kennedy’s five-year deal with the Royals, so it’s possible he’s thrown his last pitch for the Kansas City club. He could of course be brought back on a small one-year deal or a minor league arrangement, but he’ll have the opportunity to speak to 29 other clubs before determining what’s next for him.