The Rangers announced they’ve activated reliever Ian Kennedy from the injured list in advance of tonight’s game against the Astros. Lefty Hyeon-jong Yang was optioned to Triple-A Round Rock to create active roster space.
Kennedy was placed on the IL last week with a mild hamstring strain, but he’s back after a minimal absence. He’ll presumably return to his ninth-inning role in Arlington, where he’s found plenty of success. The veteran righty has made 21 appearances and tossed 21 1/3 innings of 2.53 ERA/3.25 SIERA ball this season. Kennedy, who was forced to settle for a minor league deal over the winter after a terrible 2020 season in Kansas City, has seen significant jumps in his strikeout and swinging rates (to a strong 29.8% and 13.2%, respectively). Equally importantly, he’s held opponents to just two home runs after coughing up seven long balls in 14 innings last year.
That seems to have been driven by much grater reliance on his high-spin four-seam fastball, which he’s thrown 82% of the time in 2021, with fantastic results. Kennedy’s benefitting from an elevated strand rate (84.2%) and fairly low HR/FB rate (8.3%), so he’s unlikely to sustain quite this level of run prevention, but he’s made meaningful improvements that should allow him to continue to perform as a solid high-leverage relief option down the stretch.
Kennedy’s strong season makes him one of the likeliest players in baseball to change teams over the next six weeks. The Rangers didn’t expect to compete this year, and they’ve unsurprisingly posted the second-worst record in the American League. With Kennedy hitting free agency at the end of the season, there’s little reason for Texas not to move him to a contender in exchange for younger talent before the July 30 trade deadline.