Howie Kendrick’s bags — both red, both emblazoned with the Phillies’ logo — were packed and sitting on the floor in front of his cubicle in the Phillies’ locker room late Friday night.
He signed a baseball for pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, shook hands with the young pitcher, wished a couple Phillies officials well.
In time he grabbed one of the bags and took it out a nearby door, presumably to someone who could transport it where it needed to go.
Then he collected the other bag, the one with the bats in it.
Have bat, will travel — that will ultimately be his epitaph.
He is hitting .340 this year, .290 in his 12-year career. That makes him a valuable commodity to a team like the Washington Nationals, who acquired the infielder/outfielder from the Phils for minor-league pitcher McKenzie Mills and international bonus money after Friday’s game against the Atlanta Braves.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak labeled Mills “a projectable left-handed starter” and talked about the “remarkable transformation” the 18th-round pick has made after he struggled with control in his first three professional seasons. Over the first 111 innings of his career, Mills struck out 83 and walked 74.
A day ago, he was promoted to High A Potomac. With the Nationals' Low A affiliate Hagerstown this season, Mills went 12-2 with a 3.01 ERA, 118 strikeouts to 22 walks and a .204 opponents' batting average. He is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and only 21 years old.
Kendrick is 34 years old, and the Phillies want to get a long look at their young players, particularly those in the outfield, where Kendrick had most often appeared. So away he goes.
“On the one hand, we have young players that are going to be with us for the foreseeable future, and we want those players to continue their major-league development,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “On the other hand, we love Howie Kendrick, and he was hitting .340 for us. … He’s paved the way for others, and allowed others to grow. Now they can take the torch from him and get more regular reps in the second half.”
Klentak, who has known Kendrick since both were part of the Angels' organization in 2012, said he was genuinely happy for him. You can imagine how Kendrick feels, going from baseball’s worst team to one of the best. The Nationals lead the NL East by 13 games.
“Our ultimate goal as players is to win a World Series,” he said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be going to.”
Kendrick, acquired last November in a trade with the Dodgers, said Klentak informed him from the start that he would likely be dealt before this year’s trade deadline. The stumbling block was his health; he has been on the disabled list twice to date, with an abdominal strain and a hamstring strain, his most recent stint ending just last Friday.
“Most teams want to make sure they’re trading for healthy players,” Klentak said. “He showed in the last few days, coming off this most recent DL stint, he’s back to being Howie Kendrick, getting hits left and right. That’s what Howie Kendrick does.”
Now he will be doing it for a team with an explosive lineup.
“I’ll probably be hitting eighth or something,” he said.
But hitting, to be sure. Always that.