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Among the most pitching-friendly venues in baseball, Petco Park’s expansive dimensions have propped up its share of struggling pitchers over the last decade.

Ian Kennedy certainly fit the bill.

Fetched for a situational left-hander and a minor league pitcher in July 2013, Kennedy was a shell of the 21-game winner he was in 2011 when the Diamondbacks slapped a for-sale sign on him. He had won just three of his 21 starts and an ERA that sat at 2.88 during that Cy Young-caliber season had ballooned to 4.91 when the Padres bought a stake in his reclamation projection.

A year later, Kennedy has not only reestablished his value, he has emerged as one of the Padres’ more intriguing assets as they begin to explore just how to improve their offense. So, just what went into Kennedy’s turnaround?

Name: Ian Kennedy

Position: Right-handed starter

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible for a third time; made $6.1 million in 2014.

Stat to note: 7.8 percent

To some, Kennedy’s success in 2011 while pitching in Arizona’s dry, hitter-friendly conditions didn’t exactly compute. A fly-ball pitcher like Kennedy simply should get burned more than he did in 2011, when his opponent’s batting line was far better at Chase Field (.210/.263/.319) than it was on the road (.250/.303/.414). So Kennedy’s struggles in 2012 and 2013 – when his homer-to-fly-ball ratio soared from 7.7 percent to 10.8 percent to 13.2 percent – comes across a little like course correction.

That number dropped all the way back down to 7.8 percent in 2014, thanks both to a much friendlier ballpark and the tutelage of pitching coach Darren Balsley.

Maybe the latter deserves more credit. After all, Kennedy’s ERA was better on the road (3.32) than it was at home (3.93).

The Padres thought all along that “a different voice” might help Kennedy click when he arrived. Among the mechanical changes that Balsley applied to Kennedy: More turn to leg kick, keeping his hip in line with the plate longer and not turning to his slide step out of the stretch quite as often.

The resulting boosted torque added an extra mph hour to Kennedy’s average fastball, which maxed out higher than 95 mph for the first time his career, according to fangraphs.com. Armed with that revitalized pitch, Kennedy struck out a career-high 9.27 batters per nine innings en route to his first 200-plus punchout campaign. His ERA (3.63) also dipped much closer to what Kennedy and the Padres expect.

2015 outlook

Considering his improved peripheral numbers, Kennedy deserved a better win-loss record than last year’s 13-13 campaign, and it’s reasonable to expect those stats to boost his $6.1 million salary toward the $10 million range in 2015, his final year under team control.

Although that’s one reason to expect the Padres to shop Kennedy for a bat this offseason, that kind of payroll commitment could make it harder to move the 29-year-old right-hander without adding at least one of their prized prospects to discussions. The Padres didn’t like the returns teams were offering over the summer and they likely won’t improve much now that Kennedy is even closer to free agency.

Of course, there’s plenty of reason to want to keep Kennedy around, too.

On top of improved results, Kennedy’s durability track record is unmatched on the Padres’ staff. He has thrown at least 180 innings in each of the last five seasons, was the lone Padres starter to top 200 innings last year and missed just one turn in the rotation due to a slight oblique pull.

Indeed, the Padres could very well decide to hitch their future to Kennedy’s reliability rather than the upside offered by ace-in-the-making Andrew Cashner, who spent two spells on the disabled list, had reportedly rebuffed extension talks with the previous front office regime and would likely fetch a more impactful bat on the trade market.

Kennedy, meanwhile, has enjoyed his time in San Diego and is said to value that more than maximizing his earning power despite employing uber-agent Scott Boras.

That could add up to a long-term future for Kennedy with the Padres.

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