By Marj Gallagher

Kyle Kendrick was a back-end starter with when the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay and signed Cliff Lee as a free agent.

Halladay and Lee teamed with homegrown lefty Cole Hamels in 2011 to make up a formidable trio of starting pitchers, three of the top 10 pitchers in baseball that season by ERA — and three-time All-Star Roy Oswalt wasn’t too shabby either.

Only two teams since 2000 have had three pitchers make 30 or more starts while compiling ERAs lower than 3.00. One was the 2005 Houston Astros of Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The other was the 2011 Phillies of Halladay, Hamels and Lee.

Only one team in 2016 had three starters make 30 starts and finish with an ERA under 3.50. That was the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, featuring Kyle Hendricks (2.13), Jon Lester (2.44) and Jake Arrieta (3.10).

Those 2011 Phillies won 102 games and the National League East title going away — only to lose the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals when Chris Carpenter outdueled Halladay in a 1-0 classic in Game Five. All three returned the following year, but Oswalt had departed and age had started to catch up to Halladay. The 2012 Phillies won just 81 games, the start of their decline into the National League East basement.

Kendrick made 15 starts for the 2011 Phillies and at least 25 in each of the next three seasons before departing Philly as a free agent. He pitched most of last season with Triple-A Salt Lake in the Los Angeles Angels’ farm system, compiling a 4.72 ERA in 93 1/3 innings.

Kendrick, 32, signed a minor-league contract with the Red Sox in January, joining a team with perhaps the best approximation of Halladay, Hamels and Lee since then — Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello.

“This camp reminds me a lot of that, those three guys,” Kendrick said.

“It’s not too dissimilar,” said Ruben Amaro, the general manager of those Phillies teams and now the first-base coach of the Red Sox.

Like Porcello and Price, Halladay and Lee both had Cy Young Awards in their trophy case before that 2011 season — Halladay in 2003 with Toronto and 2010 with Philly, Lee in 2008 with Cleveland. Like Sale and Price, Lee and Hamels were two of the best lefties in the game.

By style, Kendrick profiled most closely with Halladay. Both were righties who pitched with a sinker, cutter and changeup. (Halladay threw a curveball in addition to those three pitches, Kendrick a slider.) Halladay was in his early 30s but still at the top of his game. Kendrick couldn’t follow him around enough — from playing catch to studying hitters to adopting the grip to his cutter.

“I tried to watch every move he did,” Kendrick said, “and I tried to pick his brain on grips and facing hitters and watching film with him. In my opinion, he was the best pitcher in baseball.”

Kendrick compiled a 3.22 ERA in 114 2/3 innings that season, including a 3.14 ERA in his 15 starts. The fact that he was the weak link in the starting rotation spoke to how loaded the front of the rotation was. Halladay, Lee and Hamels finished the season with ERAs of 2.35, 2.40 and 2.79, respectively.

“I remember hearing talk from guys coming to the field, like, ‘Oh, now we’ve got to face Halladay,’ and then, ‘We got beat up by Halladay last night, and now we’ve got to face Lee,’ ” Kendrick said. “I’m sure when they came across me, it was like, ‘All right, maybe we have a chance.’ ”

For the Red Sox this season, the hope is that hitters will be just as demoralized when they see Porcello, Price and Sale pitching in succession and then All-Stars Drew Pomeranz or Steven Wright coming next. Three Red Sox starters (Porcello, Pomeranz and Sale) compiled sub-3.50 ERAs last season, and the 3.99 ERA that Price compiled in his first season in Boston looked like an outlier against his 3.09 career ERA.

“For any hitters, when they start looking forward to the next series and they see, ‘Gosh, we’ve got Price, Sale and Porcello’ — or Wright or Eddie [Rodriguez] or Pomeranz, whoever it may be — they’re going to face somebody that’s going to be a challenge for them every single day,” Amaro said. “There’s no letup.”

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