Although there are only four games remaining in the 2010 regular season, things are active with regards to the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching staff. This news covers not only those on the major league staff but also pitchers in Tucson attending Instructional League.

Let’s begin with the major league roster. Starter Ian Kennedy made his final start of the season last night against the San Francisco Giants. Kennedy pitched well going five innings allowing just five hits.

Unfortunately, one of those five hits was a home run to Pat Burrell in the fourth inning with two men on. That one mistake cost him the ballgame as Giants starter Tim Lincecum out-dueled him allowing just one run, a lead-off home run by Stephen Drew.

In Kennedy’s five innings of work he threw 92 pitches, 59 of which were strikes. Large pitch counts have been a trademark of Kennedy for most of the season. The number of strikes he throws leads to lots of foul balls and deep pitch counts. This will be something the team addresses with him after the season.

It was somewhat surprising to even see Kennedy pitching in the game. Last season he threw just 23 innings for the New York Yankees being injured for most of the year.

Under the Josh Byrnes-regime Kennedy was held to a strict inning and pitch count. He was scheduled to throw no more than 175 innings this season. That limit seems to have been lifted under Jerry Dipoto and now Kevin Towers. Last night’s game brought Kennedy’s season total to 194 innings just one inning less than Rodrigo Lopez who is leading the team with 195 innings and one start remaining.

Manager Kirk Gibson and GM Towers seem more inclined to stretch out the pitchers to see how they will fare when going beyond their perceived limits. That may prove valuable during a playoff hunt where pitchers will go beyond their regular season total.

I recognize the value of this but cannot help but think about Brandon Webb who was one of the league leaders in innings pitched for several years. Could his shoulder problems have been avoided by managing his innings pitched along the way?

Speaking of Webb, yesterday marked his return to the mound in an instructional league game in Tucson. Webb worked a complete inning throwing approximately 20 pitches.

In that inning he allowed one hit, a triple, but limited the damage not allowing that run to score. The game was attended by scouts from several teams interested in Webb’s health before he becomes a free agent at the end of this season.

Webb sounded encouraged by his results while admitting he was nervous and his velocity was down, estimates had him throwing in the low 80s. Webb is hoping to build on this success when he pitches again on Saturday in another instructional game.

Webb’s final scheduled instructional league game will be next Wednesday in Phoenix likely against the San Francisco Giants’ instructional league team. After that time Webb and team officials will sit down and assess his progress and next steps.

One of the subjects in that discussion will be how Webb may fit into the team’s plans for 2011. Any contract regarding Webb will likely need to be incentive laden, something the Diamondbacks have been reluctant to do in the past.

So while the weather is starting to cool down it remains hot around the Diamondbacks pitching staff.

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