Kendrick takes notes on Webb
Right-hander studies fellow sinkerballer in Thursday's finale
PHOENIX -- Kyle Kendrick spent Thursday morning performing his usual day-after-a-start routine, running and chilling in the clubhouse before the series finale at Chase Field.By 12:40 p.m. PT, Kendrick attended school for an important pitching lesson. He leaned over the dugout railing or watched from a seat near the top of the dugout. He took mental notes as instructor Brandon Webb taught Kendrick's teammates a lesson in movement. He might've as well been in art class. "Wow," Kendrick said. "He pitched a really good game, especially against our lineup. The way he pitches deep in games, and saves the bullpen, is impressive. He struggled a little in the ninth, but he had an easy time getting there." Specifically, the sophomore right-hander wanted to study how Webb, a fellow sinkerballer and the guy Kendrick would most like to emulate, used his changeup, the pitch Kendrick is trying to develop into a weapon. "He has a Whiffle Ball change up," Kendrick said. "There weren't a lot of good swings. He didn't have [a changeup] for his first few years, and it's really good now. He's won a Cy Young and is one of the best pitchers in the game. Learning from other guys is important. It's comforting that someone else went through what I'm going through." While Kendrick hoped he didn't have to watch a complete-game six-hitter on this particular afternoon, what he saw may ultimately help him, and thus, the Phillies. For his part, Webb expressed a willingness to share trade secrets. The 2006 Cy Young Award winner hasn't met Kendrick, but related to that stage of his career, when he relied on one pitch. In Webb's first few seasons, he said "about 90 out of 100" pitches a game were sinkers, and he'd mix in an occasional curve. When hitters made adjustments -- as they are doing this season with Kendrick -- Webb developed a change to keep opponents uncomfortable. "I started using the change up a lot [during the Cy Young season]," Webb said. "Before, I didn't have a lot of confidence in it and didn't have success with it. Now, it's a real comfortable pitch for me. You have to be real aggressive with it, and trust your grip and arm action. Ninety percent of it is selling it with your arm action. I get a lot of strikeouts with mine." Kendrick is at the point where he throws about five changeups a game, and will rely on his sinker in crucial, late-game situations, which he should. Webb also will go to his sinker in tight spots, but has complete confidence in his other pitches. Webb said Kendrick will get there too. "Right now, [my changeup] is probably my second-bast pitch, but you don't want to get beat with your second-best pitch," Webb said. "It takes a long time to really feel comfortable with throwing it in tough situations, but when you can, you can use it to get a ground ball and get out of the inning. It's huge to do that." As for comparing the two sinkers, Kendrick said Carlos Ruiz settled that debate. "Chooch came up after the game and said, 'You're sinker is good,'" Kendrick said, "'but his is very good."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.