It's been an interesting off-season for Ryan Madson. Not only did the news come that the Phillies are giving serious thought to plugging him into the starting rotation, he got a new role to play away from the field; Daddy. Madson has spent much of his winter with his first child, daughter Ella. In fact, Madson listed it as his favorite thing to do in response to a fan's question.
On the field, Ella may be able to see Daddy pitch on a more scheduled basis. After starting his major league career in the bullpen, Madson looks forward to getting back to where he's most comfortable - the starting rotation. As a minor leaguer, Madson pitched as a starter and excelled at the job. Of his minor league games, only three out of 104 outings were as a reliever. As a major leaguer, all but one of his 131 outings have been as a reliever. Why the change? Very simple. Two years ago in spring training, Madson was impressive. The Phillies felt compelled to find a spot on the roster for him, but their starting rotation didn't really need an extra arm. Their bullpen did and Madson found himself in the bullpen to start the 2004 season. Slowly, but surely, Madson showed that he could handle the job and by the end of the season, found himself in more and more pressure situations and pitching later in games. The only problem for Madson was that he had made himself so valuable in the bullpen that getting back into a job as a starter wasn't even considered in spring training 2005. Now, that's all changed.
In his one emergency start in the majors, Madson looked completely lost. The start came in Chicago against the White Sox and he was simply horrible. After adjusting to the bullpen, Madson had seemingly lost his ability to start. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong and Madson was out of the game with less innings put onto his stats than he generally got as a reliever. Now, he'll need to find his rhythm and get back into the routine of a starting pitcher. Madson feels that if he can get comfortable in his old routine, he has a better than average shot at cracking the rotation. "I feel like if I go into Spring Training and get back into my routine as a starter, I think I have a good shot," said Madson in his on-line chat. The comfort level is definitely there, but Madson never demanded a shot at starting in the majors. Although, when asked if he would be more comfortable in his setup role or as a starter, Madson left no doubt about what he prefers. "Starting, for sure, because that's what I came up through the minors doing. But wherever help is needed, I will be more than happy to do it," replied Madson.
While he may wind up starting, Madson has the quirks of a reliever. When asked about his pre-game ritual, Madson confessed to having a superstitious side. "I use the same shower before the game starts. Two pairs of socks, one on the left, one on the right, one on the left and one on the right," insists Madson. He also figures to get some starting advice from Brett Myers, who he named as the other player on the team that he's closest to. Madson and Myers came up through the Phillies' system together and have developed a tight friendship, although they differ on one specific issue. Myers prides himself on being a good guitar player. Madson disagrees, giving a definite, but fun, "no" when asked during the chat if Myers was a good guitar player.
The Phillies have searched for a way to improve their starting rotation all off-season. If Madson can jump from the bullpen to the rotation, they just may have found a key piece of the puzzle. In fact, when he was coming through the minors, some scouts believed that Madson had the stuff to be at least a middle-of-the-rotation starter and perhaps, better. If he fulfills those expectations, the Phillies will be very happy with Madson's move. Of course, that leaves a hole for someone in the bullpen to step up and fill.