PBN Notebook: Will Howard Lead to Domino Effect?

Buzz Hannahan

Ryan Howard's promotion caused a bit of a shift at Scranton. Who will wind up where isn't completely clear, but there could be a domino effect. First baseman Randy Ruiz is pounding the ball at AA, but has precious little experience. Plus, news on some overlooked young prospects in the organization and questions about how quickly Jason Jaramillo can move through the system.

Philadelphia Phillies: 12-15, 4 1/2 GB in National League East.

Brett Myers (2-1, 1.34) continues to dazzle. Myers has gone six innings or more in four of his five starts and went 5 2/3 innings in his other start. A big part of his success has been his control. Myers has walked just 9 while striking out 34 in 33 1/3 innings of work. He has also given up just two homeruns this season. This is the kind of dominating pitcher that everybody expected Brett Myers to be. A change in pitching coaches, managers and increased maturity on Myers' part is all it took for him to get to where he needed to be.

"I don't look at this as an audition," said Ryan Howard when he met up with the team in New York on Tuesday. Howard will be the starting first baseman while Jim Thome (back) is on the DL. He's gotten his feet wet at the major league level, so Howard is familiar with how things work. With manager Charlie Manuel hinting that it may be more than two weeks before Jim Thome returns to the lineup, Howard could be here for a long stretch. The Phillies had already planned on having him with the club for interleague play and it's possibly that Howard could even be in the majors to stay if he puts up the kind of numbers that are expected of him. The key might be how he would do coming off the bench. There is no doubt that his power off the bench could be a big plus.

For all of the controversy surrounding the Utley - Polanco - Bell situation, the fact is that it's working. David Bell is struggling both at the plate and in the field, but he shows an occasional slick glove and there is no doubt about his impact on other players. Don't discount Bell's influence and guidance in the clubhouse as a major positive part of this club. Meanwhile, Placido Polanco will see some increased at bats both at third and second base and Chase Utley is getting decent playing time, which should only increase with Polanco playing more at third base. Tomas Perez is the one that's really hurt by the situation, since his at bats are going to be down.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons: 12-12, 3 1/2 GB in the International League North Division.

With Ryan Howard headed to Philly, Jim Rushford took over at first base for Scranton Tuesday night. With Rushford moving to the infield, Buzz Hannahan made a start in right field. Hannahan has been somewhat of an overlooked commodity in Scranton this season. He's quietly played in 18 games and is hitting .353 for the Red Barons. The problem is finding a place for Hannahan to play on a regular basis, so he's been moved all around, which doesn't bother Hannahan. While right field isn't Hannahan's natural position or his favorite, he'll do whatever he can to help the club. "I like playing up the middle, short, second, and center field. I've got pretty good range and I think it sort of gets wasted on the corners," said Hannahan. You have to hand it to manager Gene Lamont for finding a decent amount of playing time for Hannahan. You also have to figure that there could be a spot on a major league team for someone as versatile as Hannahan.

With Billy Wagner potentially exiting the club after this season, you have to look at potential replacements for the closer's job. That's where Frank Perez comes in. He's saved five games for Scranton and has a miniscule 0.90 ERA in nine games. Opponents are hitting just .222 against him. Rob Tejeda has also been mentioned as a potential replacement, but he's also valuable in his current starting role. Tejeda has had his number somewhat inflated by one bad outing, but he's still impressive at a 2.82 ERA and an opponents batting average of .238. It may be interesting to see if either Perez or Tejeda get a major league audition later this season.

Reading Phillies: 9-16, 6 1/2 GB in the Eastern League Southern Division.

Will Ryan Howard's promotion have a domino effect? Randy Ruiz is putting up strong numbers at Reading, but keep in mind that his 10 games played at AA are the only AA games that he's ever played. In other words, he's probably not ready for a promotion. If Howard stays with the Phillies long-term though, it would be interesting to see if Ruiz would be moved to AAA in mid-summer. It's not out of the question. Ruiz was named Eastern League Player of the Week for the week ending May 1st. The truth is that Ruiz may have done enough in two games against New Britain to earn the award. In back-to-back games, Ruiz homered four times with 11 RBI and six runs scored. It came out this week that Ruiz started the season on the restricted list because of a bad drug test late last season. That news shouldn't dampen the numbers that Ruiz put up since he started his season, especially considering it's his first shot at AA.

Coming into the season, it didn't look like Reading would need a first baseman, since Ryan Barthelemy seemed to have that spot locked up. Truth is that Barthelemy may be one of the bigger disappointments in the organization, hitting just .213 in 20 games. Barthelemy has served as DH in a few games since Ruiz arrived, but his playing time could dwindle. Speaking of disappointments, Juan Richardson has seen his average sink to 

Allen Davis has spent a lot of time recovering from injuries, but all of that appears to be well behind him as he makes his way through the system pitching at AA Reading; at least for now. (Photo by Ralph Trout, courtesy of the Reading Phillies.)

If Buzz Hannahan is somewhat overlooked at Scranton, the same could be said for Allen Davis at Reading. Davis (2-2, 2.90) leads the team in innings pitched (31) and has allowed just one homerun and three walks. He also leads Reading starters in ERA and only reliever Travis Minix (2.87) has a lower ERA at Reading. Davis has great poise on the mound and doesn't worry about striking out every hitter he faces. He lets hitters put the ball in play and depends on his defense to get their job done. Opponents are hitting just .246 against Davis this season.

Clearwater Threshers: 5-20, 13 GB in the Florida State League West Division.

Holly Oswald contributed to parts of this report.

Will Carlos Rodriguez return to the Threshers? If he does - and the odds are that he will - nobody wants to have their locker close to his. That's just one of the complaints that PhillyBaseballNews.com uncovered for our story The Dangerous Saga of Carlos Rodriguez. Phillies sources told us about Rodriguez' bizarre behavior that many consider to be reckless at best and dangerous at worst. Rodriguez was suspended by the team and threatened to retire. He has since called off his retirement and is working out with players in the Phillies extended spring training.

The medics in Clearwater are busy. Josh Carter hurt a rib doing warm up drills, Erick Arteaga missed a start because of pain in the back of his shoulder and Scott Mathieson is already on the DL. The news on Mathieson is good. He threw on Sunday and will likely miss just one more start before being reactivated. Tim Moss is hobbled by a sore left knee and Doug Gredvig is away from the team for the birth of his daughter. Coaches don't know day-to-day who is going to be healthy and players have been flying in and out of Clearwater for some time now. Reports are that it's starting to wear thin on some of the staff that they don't have a good feel for who they will have long-term.

Clary Carlsen made an emergency start for Clearwater, going 5 1/3 innings. It wasn't a good night for Clearwater pitchers though as the Threshers struggle to find healthy players. (Photo by Holly Oswald)

Clary Carlsen made an emergency start for Arteaga and pitched 5 1/3 innings. He was touched for four runs in the effort. That's nothing; Beau Richardson gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings and Rik Currier gave up another run in his inning. The only one to have success on the mound was infielder Omar Bramasco, who struck out two in his scoreless inning. Bramasco was grinning ear-to-ear after the outing and picked up loud cheers from the Clearwater fans, who were all rooting for him. Could Bramasco be the anti-Ankiel and give up his position player career to pitch?

Lakewood BlueClaws: 6-20, 12 GB in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League.

J.A. Happ (1-1, 2.25) made his second start for Lakewood and suffered the loss on Tuesday. Happ allowed three runs on six hits over six innings Tuesday, but his season numbers are still strong thanks to his impressive Lakewood debut late last week. In that outing, Happ threw six shutout innings against Greensboro as Lakewood won 5-1.

Jason Jaramillo continues to hit well for Lakewood, posting a .328 average in 18 games. It's going to be interesting to see how Jaramillo is handled. With Mike Lieberthal on the downhill side of his career and the Phillies looking for his heir, they may try to move Jaramillo along at a swift pace. There is no doubt that Jaramillo is equipped to handle the pressure and has the talent to move quickly, but just how quickly is the question. The situation is softened somewhat by Carlos Ruiz at AAA, but he hasn't really been projected as a starting major league caliber player by most scouts. Jaramillo is thought by many to be next in line, but the Phillies may need a stopgap for a season or two to give Jaramillo some time. Clearwater catchers - Chico Cortez and Zach Norman - are hitting a combined .134 with one homerun and 7 RBI, so there is room at Clearwater for a catcher when the Phillies feel Jaramillo is ready.

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