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Chris Booker is no newcomer to baseball. He's pitched in the minor leagues
since 1995 when the Cubs grabbed him in the 20th round of the draft. Since then,
he's also pitched in the minors for Cincinnati and pitched in three games at the
major league level for the Reds in 2005. His cup of coffee in Cincy didn't taste
too good though as he finished his stint with a 13.50 ERA in his three
The book on Booker though is that he learned a split-finger pitch last season
and was a different pitcher. Prior to that, he simply tried to overpower and
intimidate hitters, but with the split-finger pitch, he can add a little
movement and battle hitters in a different way. It's going to be interesting to
see whether that split-finger works well enough in Spring Training to earn him a
spot on the roster or if he'll just fall by the wayside and perhaps not even be
able to stick in the Phillies' organization.
|Minors - career
|Majors - career
Acquired: Purchased from the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him with the
fifth pick in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft. Prior to that, he was originally drafted by
the Chicago Cubs in the 20th round of the 1995 Draft. The Cubs later traded him
along with RHP Ben Shaffar to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Michael Tucker.
Repertoire: Booker basically throws heat. He's quickly developed a
split-finger pitch that worked well for him at the AAA level in 2005, but wasn't
effective enough at the major league level in a short audition with the Reds
last fall. The new pitch helped Booker to record the best numbers of his minor
league career at AAA Louisville where he went 8-4, 2.49 with 20 saves.
Pitching: At 6' 3" and 230 pounds, Booker is an intimidating figure.
His style used to be simply to try to blow away hitters, but with the
split-finger pitch and added work, he's really become more of a pitcher than
just a guy who gets on the mound and throws hard. He's not afraid to pitch
inside and keeps the ball down in the zone. Throughout his minor league career,
he gave up just one homerun every 18 innings, so he knows how to keep the ball
in the park. He has always been a strikeout pitcher, but his walk numbers were
particularly low in 2005 as he issued just 28 walks in 65 innings of work in the
minors, a slightly better ratio than his earlier seasons.
Projection: The Phillies are keeping their fingers crossed that Booker
can win a job in their bullpen. If not, they could lose him unless they can work
out a deal to keep him in the minor league system. For now, they would like him
to be a sixth or seventh inning type pitcher, much like Ryan Madson was when he
first arrived. From there, some scouts believe that Booker has the talent to
move into more pressure situations. Could he be a major league closer? If all
goes perfectly, but don't figure on him being a replacement for Billy Wagner
anytime soon. Perhaps down the road, he could help out in that role if needed,
but that's for a future time.
ETA: His time is now. Booker should be ready. He turned 29 last
December and has plenty of minor league experience. If the split-finger pitch
isn't enough for him to succeed at the major league level, then he'll likely
always be a AAA filler type pitcher.
Comparisons: Booker looks a little like Lee Smith, but doesn't have
the stuff that the big man had. The Phillies really haven't had a flame-throwing
non-closing reliever over the past few seasons that he could be compared to.
Just picture a big guy who throws hard and keeps the ball down in the zone.
That's Chris Booker.