Major league left-hander Joe Kennedy dies

Updated: November 23, 2007, 6:26 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

Joe Kennedy, who last pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays during a seven-year major league career, died early Friday morning while at home with family in Florida. He was 28.

The cause of death could not immediately be determined, agent Damon Lapa said.

Joe Kennedy

Kennedy

LHP -- 2001-07
2001-03 Tampa Bay
2004-05 Colorado
2005-07 Oakland
2007 Arizona
2007 Toronto
Profile

Career Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
222 43 61 335 558 4.79

After going to bed early, Kennedy woke up at about 1:15 a.m. Friday and collapsed as he was leaving a bedroom at the home of his wife's parents, Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said, according to The Associated Press. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue took Kennedy to Brandon Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, she said.

"We were terribly shocked," Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said, according to the AP. "From what we understand he was in Bradenton ... to be the best man at a wedding today."

Kennedy compiled a 43-61 record in seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks and Blue Jays.

A left-hander, Kennedy broke into the majors in 2001 with the Devil Rays. In three full seasons with Tampa Bay he made 72 starts, compiling an 18-31 record.

Godfrey said he didn't have any particulars on the cause of death.

"When a 28-year-old man dies, it's terrible," he said.

Florida Marlins vice president Dan Jennings, who was Tampa Bay's scouting director when the Rays selected Kennedy in the eighth round of the 1998 draft, learned of Kennedy's death Friday morning from Craig Weissmann -- the scout who signed Kennedy out of Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif.

"There are no words to describe this,'' Jennings told ESPN.com. "It's very, very tragic. My condolences go out to him and his family.''

Jennings said he remembers Kennedy primarily for his competitiveness on the mound.

"Joe was on a mission from the moment we signed him, and that mission was to be a major league pitcher,'' Jennings said. "He was very much a competitive kid who liked challenging hitters.

[+] EnlargeJoe Kennedy
AP Photo/Matt SlocumJoe Kennedy's best season was 2006, when he was 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 39 games for Oakland.
"I remember joking around with him in the clubhouse one year during interleague play. We were on our way to San Francisco to face the Giants, and we were having fun with him about facing Barry Bonds. Joe told us, 'You know what? If he gets me, he'll have to earn it, because I'm gonna challenge him.' That's just who Joe was.''

Since 2004, Kennedy had two stints each with Colorado and Oakland. He started the 2007 season with Oakland, was claimed off waivers in August by Arizona, then designated for assignment before being signed by the Blue Jays on Aug. 29.

Godfrey said Toronto was interested in bringing Kennedy back.

"We had every intention to speak to him," he said. "We had him on our list to talk to."

Kennedy had a career 4.79 ERA, pitching 908 2/3 innings over 222 career appearances.

Kennedy made his major league debut on June 6, 2001 as a starting pitcher. He went five innings, earning a win against the Blue Jays.

He made his last appearance in relief on Sept. 29, 2007 in a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.

"The entire Oakland's A's organization sends our thoughts out to Joe's family," said Oakland assistant general manager David Forst. "He was a valued member of our organization for almost two years, and certainly a guy we loved having around.''

Kennedy was married with a 1-year old son.

"He was a great father. He loved that boy and his wife both more than anything in the world. That son of his was the apple of his eye," Weissmann told AP. "He just was really looking forward to everything that a father shares with a son."

Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer