Medical examiner rules Kennedy died of heart disease

TAMPA, Fla. -- Major league pitcher Joe Kennedy was
afflicted with a condition that caused his heart to suddenly stop
beating at his in-laws' home in November, when he collapsed and
later died.

A final report on the 28-year-old player's death on Nov. 23 has
not been issued. But an autopsy found he had hypertensive heart
disease, a condition that hardens the heart's walls and can cause
it to stop beating, said Dr. Vernard Adams, the Hillsborough County
medical examiner.

He said the left-hander also had myxoid valvular disease, a
condition that affects the way blood flows through a valve that
separates the upper and lower chambers on the heart's left side.
Both conditions can lead to a higher risk of cardiac arrest.

Adams said medical records indicated that Kennedy had some
elevated blood pressure readings and had an electrocardiogram, but
those tests would not necessarily reveal either condition.

Hypertensive heart disease "is very common in the general
population," Adams said, but "not common in this age group."

Kennedy was a journeyman pitcher who played seven years in
the majors and played for three teams during the 2007 season. He
had a 43-61 career record with 4.79 ERA in 222 appearances.

He appeared in 27 games with the Oakland Athletics before being
released and pitching briefly for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He
ended the season with the Toronto Blue Jays, who said they intended
to bring him back next season.

Athletics team physician Dr. Allan Pont told the San Francisco
Chronicle that Kennedy had a family history of heart disease and
the pitcher underwent numerous tests. "There were no abnormalities
to suggest anything wrong with his heart," Pont told the Chronicle.

A team spokesman did not return a phone message from The
Associated Press. A Blue Jays spokesman told the AP he would check
with the team's medical staff about any testing or treatment
Kennedy may have received.

Kennedy and his family, including a 1-year-old son, lived in the Denver area and had just
bought a new house at the time of this death. He was visiting his
in-laws in Brandon, a suburb east of Tampa, and was supposed to have
attend a wedding the day he died.