July 4: The Reds have now officially selected Kennedy’s contract, optioning outfielder Stuart Fairchild in a corresponding move.
July 3, 9:05pm: Cincinnati confirmed that Kennedy will get the start tomorrow morning against the Nationals (via Sheldon).
5:25pm: The Reds announced today that right-hander Brett Kennedy has been added to their taxi squad. Manager David Bell tells Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that Kennedy is likely to either start tomorrow’s game or enter after an opener. The righty isn’t currently on the club’s roster, meaning he will have to be selected prior to that game. They already have a vacancy on their 40-man roster but a corresponding move will be required to open a spot on the active roster.
Kennedy, 28, will be pitching in the big leagues for the first time since 2018. He made his major league debut with the Padres that year, making six starts with a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. He began the 2019 season on the injured list due to a lat strain and ended up staying there all year, getting outrighted off the roster at season’s end. With the minor leagues being canceled by the pandemic in 2020, he wasn’t able to pitch in any official capacity. He then spent 2021 stuck in the minors and reached free agency at the conclusion of that campaign.
Kennedy began both 2022 and 2023 with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. Last year, he made six starts as a Duck with a 3.03 ERA before his contract was selected by the Red Sox. He then posted a 3.94 ERA in 75 1/3 Double-A innings but never got the call to the big leagues. He returned to the Ducks this year and had a 3.09 ERA through three starts before the Reds purchased his contract.
Since joining the Reds organization, he’s made eight Triple-A starts and thrown 43 2/3 innings. He has a 3.71 ERA in those, striking out 19.8% of batters faced while walking 6.4% of them and getting grounders on 39.6% of balls in play.
There’s been much uncertainty in the rotation in Cincinnati of late, with injuries taking a significant toll on the staff. Vladimir Gutierrez and Justin Dunn have each been on the IL all season so far. Nick Lodolo and Connor Overton each landed there in May with Hunter Greene and Ben Lively joining them in June.
Graham Ashcraft recently returned from his own IL stint but has an ERA of 6.66 on the year. Each of Brandon Williamson, Luke Weaver and Levi Stoudt has an ERA above 5.55. Andrew Abbott has a 1.21 ERA but some regression will have to be expected since he won’t be able to maintain a 100% strand rate or .190 batting average on balls in play. Their starters have collective 5.72 ERA on the year, better than just the Athletics and Rockies.
Those challenges will push the club to give Kennedy a try, his first major league action in five years. He has a full slate of options and between one and two years of service time, which could allow the club to keep him as a depth option for the foreseeable future, as long as he continues to hang onto a 40-man roster spot.