At the same time that trade rumors are as abundant as ants at a summer picnic, the Phillies would be well-served to evaluate their pitching staff and make postseason decisions sooner rather than later. Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson have both returned from injuries. Who will be in the bullpen? Will Roy Oswalt be in the rotation? What about Joe Blanton, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick? The Phillies are probably not looking outside the organization for additional pitching help as they focus on a right-handed hitting corner outfielder but they will let team doctors help Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro comprise a postseason roster.
Madson missed a month after being named closer – a job which he got because Jose Contreras went down after Lidge was shelved for the first half of the season. Thanks to the emergence of Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, JC Romero has been released and veteran Danys Baez has been demoted to the scrap heap, waiting in AAA Lehigh to be added incentive as trade bait.
Let’s use the domino theory to make sense of this. Lidge had offseason rotator cuff surgery and his return target was set for the 2011 All-Star Break. Toward the end of Spring Training, Jose Contreras was named interim closer over Ryan Madson. Contreras was out for over a month the last time he went on the DL, and Manuel said he was unsure if Contreras would miss more than the minimum of 15 days this time around. Contreras, 39, has posted a 3.86 ERA in 17 outings this season, while converting each of his five save opportunities and holding opponents to a .220 average. Contreras received a platelet-rich plasma injection to help alleviate pain in his right throwing arm. It’s unknown how much work the Phillies can get out of Contreras going forward. There is no timetable for him to start a throwing program but Conteras has reported significant soreness just from the injection itself.
Brad Lidge admitted he was nervous when he took the hill for the seventh inning on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. He put the nerves behind him and tossed a scoreless inning in his first big league action of the 2011 season.
“In some aspects, the butterflies I had today were like my big league debut,” Lidge said after a 5-4 loss to the Padres. “It wasn’t quite there, but it was close.” Lidge threw his slider on nine of 11 pitches. He said that pitch felt as good as ever. He figures to mix in his fastball, which topped out at 90 mph, more as he moves forward
When you’re feeling healthy, and coming back from rehab, it’s a matter of time before you’re firing on all cylinders,” Lidge said. “Today was a great first step for me.” Lidge gives manager Charlie Manuel another arm to turn to in the late innings. The former closer, who went 48-for-48 in save chances for Philadelphia’s 2008 World Series-winning club, is in an equivocal situation after only being activated last Friday because of a strained right posterior rotator cuff.
Ryan Madson is being eased back into the closer’s role, while Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes were superb in late innings while Lidge was out.
Lidge said he is just happy to be back with the team and he will let Manuel dictate his role. The Phils’ skipper now has an abundance of experienced relievers to use from the seventh inning on. He said after Monday’s game that Stutes could see more work in multiple innings and he’ll be more apt to give the rookie extra rest, so he can pitch two innings in some outings. Stutes pitched two scoreless innings on Monday, with two strikeouts. Manuel said having five options over the final innings would allow him to mix and match while assuring everyone requisite rest.
Lidge will seek more opportunities to pitch, in an effort to develop his stuff and be effective down the stretch. He said he wants the ball when it means something, like Monday, when the Padres led by one run at the time he was summoned.
Juan Perez will be used as a situational left-hander to compliment Antonio Bastrado – who has assumed the role of left-handed hammer. The southpaw Cruz went 0-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 28 appearances for Lehigh Valley. He struck out 41 in 30 2/3 innings and held lefties to a .184 average – not to mention being extremely effective in limited use for the Phillies.
Then there is the starting rotation… In Spring Training it was the Four Aces of Halladay (12-4, 2.55 ERA, 155 IP, 1.049 WHIP), Lee (9-7, 3.05), Hamels (12-5, 2.62) and Oswalt (11-7 with 3.20 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 25 Phillies starts and slated for rehab assignment first week of August) who made sure Joe Blanton was included in press conferences, photo ops and other media-driven events. While that all appeared well and good from a PR standpoint, on his best day Joe Blanton (career 73-62, 4.33 ERA, 1.350 WHIP) is not in the same league as the Four Aces, let alone in the same rotation… which is now literally true.
An ultrasound Tuesday revealed some nerve inflammation in his right (throwing) elbow. More nerve tests will be conducted this to evaluate the extent of the damage. Blanton has been on the disabled list since May 16. It’s his second stint on the DL this year. He was originally sidelined from April 24-May 4 with medial impingement in his right elbow. Team doctors and coaches are concerned that even if Blanton were to return, it would be difficult to get him stretched out enough for him to effectively return to the rotation. Blanton has never been successful coming out of the bullpen. You saw it here in print first but most fans are not surprised… Joe Blanton will not see action again in 2011 – and with 2012 being a contract year, Blanton may be fighting for his career at the tender age of 30. This means that the starting rotation after the Big Three will be rounded out by some combination of Roy Oswalt, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley.
Rookie Vance Worley has been the latest phenomenon in Philadelphia, garnering the nickname “Vanimal” and starting his own fashion trends with his signature mowhawk and safety goggles. His recent effort against the defending World Series champions was a complete game three hitter. Worley (7-1) has the best ERA in baseball since being recalled from the minor leagues on June 18, and the 23-year-old right-hander continued his torrid stretch. Worley’s first career complete game in a 7-2 win over the Giants, improving to 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA in his last seven starts. He yielded just three hits, one walk and two earned runs in another tremendous outing.
“I was trying to stay away from (Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee after the eighth), I didn’t want to hear if they were going to pull me,” said Worley. “It meant a lot to finish that game. I’m figuring out how to pitch, sequences, looking at a batter’s stance, hitter’s approach and know what I need to throw, and (catcher Brian) Schneider makes it easier on me.” Schneider, the Phillies’ backup catcher, has become Worley’s personal catcher of late, sitting behind the plate for five of his last six starts.
“He stays with me and he has fun,” said Schneider. “He works fast. When you have that kind of success with a guy, it makes you feel good. He’s just maturing and getting better. He’s proven himself, he’s gone through a lot (being sent down twice this year) he knows he’s here to stay.”
Worley has been the subject of recent trade speculation, either drove up his value or solidified his future as a member of this Phillies rotation with his performance Tuesday. By the time his spot next comes up on Sunday — the final day trades can be made without waivers — he should have that answer.
“(The win) meant a lot for everybody here,” said Worley. “Being a part of this team as they make their playoff run would mean even more.” Worley has been rumored in every hypothetical deal the Phillies would consider making – along with Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Ben Francisco, Ross Gload, Kyle Kendrick, Danys Baez and Blanton. The only real trade value would be Brown, Mayberry and Worley along with the Phillies low level minor league prospects.
Trade targets include Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Ryan Ludwick, Jeff Franceour, Colby Rasmus, Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, BJ Upton, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Connor Jackson, Brian Fuentes, Andrew Bailey, Octavio Dotel, Brandon League, Joakim Soria, Kevin Gregg, Vladimir Guerrero and a number of other potential options. Beltran is headed for San Francisco while Upton could be headed for Pittsburgh, Washington or Cleveland. Hunter Pence may remain in Houston or wind up with the Yankees. That leaves Ludwick, Franceour or Willingham as candidates for the Phillies. Packages with Bell, Adams, Soria and Melky Cabrera could factor into the equation as well. Cuddyer should be the target but Minnesota (48-55) still thinks they are in the race (14 games back in the wildcard and 5 back in AL Central).
One very interesting trading partner that has not been publicly discussed would be the Chicago White Sox. General Manager Kenny Williams is usually as active as Phillies Ruben Amaro but the question most have asked is “Are the White Sox buyers or sellers?”
Good question. Chicago is 50-52, 4.5 GB of Detroit in the very volatile AL Central – not to mention sixth in the wildcard at 11.5 GB. The White Sox have a lot of money invested in Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Juan Pierre, AJ Pierzynsky, Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle etc. The ChiSox have 3 days to decide who they want to be. Edwin Jackson ($8M) is on the trading market but would they consider dealing Carlos Quentin (.265, 20 HR, 62 RBI) whose contract is worth $5.05M through end of 2011? The cost would likely be high but imagine Kenny Williams and Ruben Amaro negotiating over Domonic Brown, Jonathan Singleton, Jared Cosart, Scott Mathieson and John Mayberry, Jr. An alternative for Chicago could be to swing Colby Rasmus away from St. Louis for Quentin but the Cardinals would be interested in Jackson as well as some bullpen help. Rasmus and Jackson have been rumored in a multi-team, multi-player deal with St. Louis, Toronto and the White Sox. Quentin should be next…
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org