It wasn't that long ago that Matt Squires seemed destined for a pretty quick
trip up the ladder and into the Phillies bullpen. In 2003, he pitched in 41
games at Clearwater and posted a 1.86 ERA. It seemed like a quick trip through
Reading and Scranton and certainly by now, he would at least be challenging for
a major league job out of the Phillies pen. Instead, he started to struggle
while pitching for Reading in 2004. Before long, he was on the DL and not long
after that, he was in an operating room having shoulder surgery.
As with most pitchers returning from surgery, Squires struggled through much
of the 2005 season. He was back at Clearwater, but his numbers weren't anywhere
near where they were in his first stop there. He certainly wasn't 100% and it
showed at times. He pitched in 22 games and finished the year with a 4.88 ERA.
Toward the end of the season though he was throwing much better and was actually
starting to feel healthy. He finished the year by giving up just one earned run
in his last 6 2/3 innings of work. The stretch knocked almost a full run off of
his ERA and gave Squires something to build on as he looked toward 2006. His
last game especially, where he pitched three innings, allowing just a hit and a
walk while striking out four, was the best he had pitched in a long while.
Still, over two seasons, Squires had pitched just 2/3 of an inning more than he
did in 2003 when it appeared that he was destined for the fast track. That
caused concern and the Phillies are now in a wait-and-see pattern with Squires.
Coming into 2006, Squires says that he feels better than he has since that
vaunted 2003 season. "My arm feels better than it has in three years," reports
Squires, who headed to Florida a couple of weeks ago. "I got the itch about a
month ago and finally just took off for Florida."
|YEAR / TEAM
Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies out of Whitworth College in the 19th
round of the 2001 Draft.
Repertoire: Squires has the basic mix of fastball, curveball and
slider. His shoulder injury robbed him of some velocity, but now that he's
healthy, most or maybe even all of that should come back. He has good control of
all his pitches and knows how to keep the ball down in the zone.
Approach: Squires isn't the kind of pitcher who looks to nibble and
finesse hitters into outs. He goes right at them and isn't afraid to challenge
hitters. With his control and location, he can keep the ball down in the zone
and in on hitters so they can't get much wood on the ball. The drop in velocity
hurt him, but once that returns, he should be able to go right at hitters again.
Projection: "Best case scenario is that I'll be at Scranton. Worst
case is I'll be at Reading," said Squires on sizing up where he'll start the
season. Odds are that Squires will start at AA Reading and if all goes well,
move to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre at some point during the season. The Phillies
aren't likely to rush a guy still coming off an injury by sending him to AAA
when it's not necessary. Better that he get his feet wet at Reading again and
then move along. If he were showing any lingering effects of the injury, the
Phillies may want to keep him in the warm weather of Clearwater, but that's not
ETA: This time next year, we could very well be talking about Squires
fighting for a job in spring training. Of course, if he pitches well, the
Phillies will have a decision to make, since they'll have to add him to the 40
man roster or risk losing him during the off-season. Either way, Squires figures
to be in line for a major league job next spring.
Comparison: If you watched Aaron Fultz pitch this season, you saw a
glimpse of what Matt Squires can do. Squires isn't a left-handed specialist type
pitcher and in fact, left-handed hitters have hit him better than right-handers
in his career, especially since he's had injury problems. Over the last two
seasons, left-handers have hit .338 (24-for-71) against him and right-handed
hitters have averaged .267 (43-for-161) against him. Because of his build, some
people want to compare him to Rheal Cormier, but when Squires is healthy, he has
better and more consistent stuff than Cormier.