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Brett Kerry Leads Powerful Trash Pandas Rotation

Brett Kerry was Rocket City's Opening Night starter in 2022. (Cristina Byrne-Sternberg/Rocket City Trash Pandas)
May 13, 2022

“I think you’ll need someone to carry your bags for you.” In the Inland Empire 66ers clubhouse last September, Manager Jack Howell had just given the news that infielder Carson Matthews had been promoted to Double-A to join the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Standing in front of the entire team,

“I think you’ll need someone to carry your bags for you.”

In the Inland Empire 66ers clubhouse last September, Manager Jack Howell had just given the news that infielder Carson Matthews had been promoted to Double-A to join the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Standing in front of the entire team, Howell needed to repeat himself to get the full message across.

“I think you’ll need someone to Kerry your bags for you.”

Then, the message was received by the clubhouse, which erupted and surrounded the two new Trash Pandas, Matthews and starting pitcher Brett Kerry. Following a long travel day, they arrived in Alabama. Kerry slept 11 hours that night, with his Double-A debut slated for the next day, Friday, September 10, 2021.

That night at Regions Field, despite knowing few of his teammates, Kerry was strong, pitching five scoreless innings, allowing one hit while getting two double plays and striking out two to keep the Trash Pandas in the game. Although Kerry didn’t win that night, it served as a great motivator for the long offseason.

“That took me back. I felt like a freshman in college seeing all the players years older than me,” Kerry said. “I couldn’t believe what happened and I was so excited.”

September was a long way from the start of the season in February, when he was a junior at South Carolina pitching out of the bullpen. Late in the 2021 season, Kerry was finally given a chance to start on May 15 at Kentucky. He responded to the new challenge with a complete-game shutout, allowing four hits and walking none while striking out 10 in a dominant outing. He started for the rest of the season, improving his draft stock in the process.

Still wearing his South Carolina glove on his left hand, Kerry made his Trash Pandas debut last September in Birmingham. Lucas Dolengowski/Rocket City Trash Pandas

At the draft in July, Kerry was selected in the fifth round by the Angels. He chose to leave South Carolina, head out west, and start his professional career in Inland Empire.

“It was a fun and surreal feeling getting to play professional baseball for a living,” he said. “But it was an adjustment period realizing that it was my job and now I got to do this.”

His stint with the 66ers lasted four starts before his Trash Pandas debut marked final start of the whirlwind season. His final start with Rocket City proved to be a big inspiration heading into his first full professional season in 2022.

“It was very motivating, knowing that I could have success at the Double-A level,” he said. “I knew that if I kept to my process, I could end up here again this year.”

Kerry’s wish came true, as he was not only assigned to Rocket City to start the 2022 season, he was named the team’s Opening Night starter.

Back in Birmingham, with a full offseason behind him, Kerry again pitched five scoreless innings on April 8. But this time, his arsenal was on full display as his first six outs of the season were strikeouts. He went on to strike out eight as Rocket City began the season with an 8-2 win.

Making his Toyota Field debut in his next start, Kerry was even better, striking out 11 over the first four innings before finishing with a career-high 12 in five innings.

After that start against Pensacola, Kerry was named Southern League Pitcher of the Week, the first honor of his pro career. His teammate and fellow 2021 draft pick, Chase Silseth, won the award the following week, while outfielder Trey Cabbage won Offensive Player of the Week accolades last week, giving Rocket City three consecutive award winners to start the 2022 campaign.

“It was a fantastic honor and getting to win that was great,” Kerry said. “It also makes me happy to know that Chase won it as well. He deserves it. That’s a great culture to build that everyone’s trying to build off each other’s outing and trying to one up each other. There’s still that healthy competition.”

That healthy competition has been great for the Trash Pandas, as they have posted a 18-15 record over the season’s first few weeks while Kerry’s 42 strikeouts rank third in the Southern League.