Going Out a Champion: Rangers Reliever Ian Kennedy Retiring

Ian Kennedy in the clubhouse during the celebration after his Texas Rangers won the 2023 World Series.
(Photo by Evan Thompson/Sport Relay)

Report: Rangers Reliever Ian Kennedy Retiring

PHOENIX, Nov. 1 — Texas Rangers reliever Ian Kennedy is going out a champion.

The 17-year veteran, who missed the World Series due to injury, revealed to Sport Relay during the Rangers’ clubhouse celebration following their World Series victory that the 2023 season was his last, something he had decided before the season. “There’s no better way to go out,” the jubilant Kennedy said. “You can’t top this feeling.”

Early Success of Ian Kennedy, the Starting Pitcher

Kennedy, 38, debuted in 2007 for the New York Yankees as a September call-up. He started three games, going 1–0 with a 1.89 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and a 1.158 WHIP. The Yankees had drafted him in the first round (21st overall) of the 2006 draft out of the University of Southern California. His next two seasons in New York did not go as well, and he found himself yo-yoing between Triple-A and the majors. On December 8, 2009, he was part of a three-team trade between the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kennedy headed to the Diamondbacks, as did Edwin Jackson from the Tigers. Outfielder Curtis Granderson went from the Tigers to the Yankees. The Tigers received Phil Coke and Austin Jackson from the Yankees as well as Daniel Schlereth and Max Scherzer from the Diamondbacks.

Kennedy’s best season came with the Diamondbacks in 2011. He went 21–4 with a 2.88 ERA (72 ERA-minus). The 21 wins and his .840 win-loss percentage both led the NL. In addition, he had 198 strikeouts, 55 walks, and a 1.086 WHIP across 222 innings and 33 starts. His efforts made him fourth in the NL Cy Young voting and helped guide the Diamondbacks to the 2011 NL West championship.

Kennedy made the only two postseason appearances of his career in 2011, starting Games One and Five of the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers. Game One started decently for Kennedy, who held the Brewers to two runs on six hits and one walk through the first six innings. But in the seventh, he gave up a two-out double to Ryan Braun and a homer to Prince Fielder, ending his day. The Brewers ultimately won, 4–1. Kennedy earned a no-decision in his second appearance, holding the Brewers to two runs on five hits across six innings. The Brewers ultimately won on a tenth-inning walk-off single by Nyjer Morgan.

Move to Relief

Kennedy continued to start until 2018 but never repeated the success he had in 2011. The Diamondbacks traded him to the San Diego Padres midway through the 2013 season, and he stayed with the Friars through the end of the 2015 season. He signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2016 season. He became the Royals’ closer in the 2019 season and did well, converting 30 of 34 save opportunities. After the 2020 season, one in which he struggled, he signed a one-year, $2.15 million contract with the Rangers. He closed for the Rangers, converting 16 of 17 save opportunities before they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline for three prospects. With the Phillies, he did not do quite as well, converting 10 of 13 save opportunities.

Prior to the 2022 season, Kennedy returned to Arizona on a free-agent deal to be the setup man for a rebuilding relief unit. He did decently for most of the season, even filling in as closer when Mark Melancon was out and taking over when Melancon was ineffective. But his season went awry in September, and the Diamondbacks declined his option for 2023.

Kennedy returned to Texas for 2023 on a minor league deal and made the roster out of spring training. His first four appearances went well, but the season went south afterwards. In May, the Rangers let him go. No team claimed him on waivers, so he became a free agent. But Kennedy believed in the Rangers and wanted to stay, so he signed another minor-league deal and pitched at Triple-A Round Rock. The Rangers brought him back to the big leagues in September, but he went on the 60-day injured list after five appearances with a strained rotator cuff.

Going Out a Champion

Kennedy remained with the team during the 2023 postseason run, sitting in the bullpen to support his teammates. While there, he gave sage advice and, at times, acted as a second bullpen coach.

During the clubhouse celebration following the Rangers’ World Series win, Josh Sborz — who pitched the final 2 1/3 innings of the clincher — spoke about Kennedy. Sborz called it an “honor” to send Kennedy out a champion. He added, “He played for 17 years and was a really good pitcher for a long time. He stayed with us. They (the front office) got rid of him, and he wanted to stay with us. That’s what kind of person he is. He’s a committed teammate and a good person, and that’s why we love him.”

Main Photo Credits:

PHOENIX (Nov. 1) — Ian Kennedy speaks after his Texas Rangers won the 2023 World Series with a 5–0 Game Five victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo by Evan Thompson/Sport Relay)

Ian Kennedy Career Stats:

17 years.
104–114 (17th on active wins list).
4.16 ERA.
497 appearances (23rd on active list).
290 starts.
207 relief appearances.
66 saves.
1904 1/3 innings (10th on active list).
1775 strikeouts (14th on active list).
1.288 WHIP.
2011 NL West Champion.
2023 World Series Champion.
Retired as sixth-eldest player in the American League.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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