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PHI@MIA: Kendrick goes seven strong against Marlins

MIAMI -- Charlie Manuel had a one-on-one chat Friday with Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick.

He wasn't the only one in Kendrick's ear.

"I had a talk with him," Manuel said following Tuesday night's 1-0 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park. "[Pitching coach Rich] Dubee had a talk with him. Kendrick's dad had a talk with him. About 50,000 people in Philly had talks with him."

The talks helped. (Well, some helped more than others.) Kendrick threw seven scoreless innings in the victory. The game's lone run came in the first inning when Jimmy Rollins hit the 41st leadoff homer of his career. It was the first time the Phillies won a 1-0 game with the only run coming off a leadoff homer since June 12, 1969, when Johnny Briggs hit one against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Bill Singer at Dodger Stadium.

It was the third time this season Kendrick has thrown seven or more scoreless innings, giving the Phillies glimpses of the starter they hope he can be. But what made Tuesday's start particularly interesting is it followed a poor start last week in Philadelphia that left Manuel incredibly frustrated and practically speechless.

He had more to say Tuesday.

"Kendrick was good, wasn't he?" Manuel said. "Yeah, he was. He picked up his rhythm. He had good tempo. He got the ball, got set and kept the flow of the game going."

Kendrick returned to his roots.

"I just want to stick to who I am," the pitcher said.

But who is he? He allowed seven runs in three innings in his first start April 23 in Arizona, but went 2-2 with a 1.86 ERA in his next six starts through June 1. It started to look like he had finally found his groove. Covering nearly an entire calendar year, Kendrick went 6-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 19 starts from June 9, 2011, through June 1 this season.

Then he faltered in eight starts from June 6 through last Wednesday, when he went 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA.

"He can get through that," Manuel said. "I definitely think he can get over that."

Manuel got so frustrated with Kendrick following last Wednesday's start against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park -- Kendrick allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings, bringing the game to a halt with a laborious second inning -- he could not bear to read Kendrick's statistical line, which is the way he opens nearly every postgame news conference at home.

The manager also would not commit to Kendrick making Tuesday's start, although a few days later he had changed his tune when he said, "I had a real good talk with Kyle. Kyle can definitely pitch better than he did the last time out. He's had some outings like that this year. He shows you that once he gets into his tempo and rhythm and really is determined to get you out, he's very capable."

Kendrick allowed just five hits and struck out six Tuesday.

"Sometimes I over-think stuff," Kendrick said. "I get cutter-happy. The last game I threw 30 cutters. That's not me. Dubee and I talked about knowing who I am and being who I am. When I have success, I do what I did tonight, and that's pound the sinker, get early contact. I threw four cutters today. That's who I am."

It is not unfair to speculate that if the Phillies really liked one of their starting pitchers in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, they might have bumped Kendrick into the bullpen, where he is 7-4 with a 3.50 ERA in 41 career appearances. But the Phillies decided to give Kendrick, who has a 4.57 ERA in his career as a starter, another shot.

That truly should not shock anybody who follows the team closely. If the season ended Tuesday, and one had to predict the 2013 rotation, the smart bet would be Kendrick sliding behind Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley.

Kendrick could view the final weeks of this season as an audition of sorts. If he pitches well, he could lock up a rotation spot.

"I'm not going to think that way," he insisted. "I'm going to go out there and try to pitch well, keep us in games and go as long as I can in the game, go deep as I can. But yeah, obviously if I finish strong starting, it makes it easier for next year. But that's out of my hands. I've just got to go out there and give us quality outings."

Said Manuel: "I didn't necessarily tell him he'll get an opportunity. One reason I talked to him, I felt like he didn't know exactly what we were thinking. I felt like it was time for me to talk to him. I felt like our talk was good. He responded well."

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