Joe Kennedy

Veteran pitcher Joe Kennedy spent the last month of the baseball season with the Toronto Blue Jays. No one could have guessed it would be the last month of his career.

Kennedy, 28, died early Friday November 23rd while visiting his wife's family near Tampa, Fla. He felt ill Thursday night and went to bed early, then awoke at 1 am and collapsed as he walked out of the bedroom, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. He fell backward before hitting the floor, Carter said. She said she did not know whether he struck his head during the fall. It could take several weeks before medical authorities announce a cause of death, Carter said.

Joe Kennedy, a six-foot-four, 250-pound left-hander, signed with the Jays on Sept. 2, shortly after he was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also played for Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics during a seven-year career.

"He was just a fun-loving guy with a lot of heart," Rockies first baseman Todd Helton told The Denver Post. Kennedy, his wife and year-old son lived near Denver. He and Helton were close friends. Their families often spent the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday together, but this week Kennedy was in Florida, reportedly for a friend's wedding.

"This is tragic and stunning news," Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said in a statement. "It is difficult to express the emotions felt by the Blue Jays players and our organization. My sincere sympathies go to his wife, their son and the entire family." Team president Paul Godfrey said the club was "shocked and terribly saddened" by Kennedy's death. Tampa Bay and Oakland officials released similar statements of condolence.

Kennedy's agent, Damon Lapa, told Fox Sports there was "no reasonable explanation for what happened." "The best guess at this point is either a heart attack or a brain aneurysm," Lapa said.

Kennedy posted a 43-61 record and a 4.79 ERA in 222 games. He became a free agent after going 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA in nine games with the Blue Jays. He was a starter for most of his career, winning the opening-day nod for Tampa Bay, his original club, in 2003. His best season was 2004, when he went 9-7 with a 3.66 ERA for Colorado.

Kennedy began the past season as Oakland's fifth starter, but after going 3-9 with a 4.37 ERA, he was released. He appeared in three games for the Diamondbacks before joining the Jays. Kennedy's first big-league victory came while pitching for Tampa Bay against Toronto in June 2001. His final win came on Sept. 21 when he pitched a scoreless inning in the Jays' 5-4 win at Yankee Stadium.