Instead of a Big Three, the Phillies have two soft-tossers and an open casting call.
Ace lefty Cole Hamels is as green as aces come. Most of the other 23 year-old hopefuls in the Phillies organization are still in A-ball. And yet Hamels is already the team’s undisputed ace and may mature into the Phillies best starter since Curt Schilling, perhaps even since Steve Carlton. Hamels’ best is yet to come, and he will be fun to watch in games that matter, for instance, game one of the World Series.
Behind Hamels is Jamie Moyer, the gamer, the brain. Given the Phillies offense, he’s most certainly worth trotting out there in game two of the World Series. Only, at 44, Moyer’s time is running short. This time next year and it might be a completely different story.
After that, things get especially dicey.
The Phillies third most consistent starter, rookie Kyle Kendrick, is set up to play a huge role in the pennant race. His unexpected promotion from Double-A is further proof GM Pat Gillick isn’t afraid to take a flier on a mature young pitcher on a roll. If Kendrick holds steady in the second half, he gets the nod over Adam Eaton for our imaginary game three World Series start.
Adam Eaton…what can you say? A fourth starter at best, Eaton has to figure out how to avoid the blowout losses. His stuff is on the razor’s edge of hit or miss, and against him some days the runs come in bunches. He’s not the guy you’d expect to shut down the Yankees or Red Sox in October, unless he’s at the top of his game and his luck at the same time.
Last and obviously least is the fifth starter, the personification of futility in Philadelphia. Same old same old for the Phillies. Who is the guilty party now, the ever-changing head of 10,000 swivels?
For now the Phillies will use a pot-luck minor leaguer. Today his name is J.D. Durbin.
Should they bring Brett Myers back to the rotation? Yes, they probably should. But no, they probably won’t. Myers as your number two starter would push the others back down where they belong, but the Phillies seem committed to keeping Myers in the pen. Why? Doesn’t starting pitching trump your bullpen every time?
Apparently the Phillies still want Myers in the pen because they aren’t willing to use Flash Gordon as a closer. Flash faltered in the second half last season and the Phillies aren’t ready to rely on him again. At best, they see Gordon for the eighth innings and Myers for the ninth. If they both come back strong, the Phillies bullpen will be in great shape for a pennant run.
So, back to the mystery fifth starter. If the whirling Durbin falters, which minor leaguers are poised to take his place?
The list from within is thin.
Going young is not without its downsides. Sometimes you get Adam Bernero, who launched more flights than NASA in his one-game career with the Phillies. But the upside can be tremendous when you find a Kyle Kendrick.
After striking gold with Kendrick, the odds go way down for finding another rookie with the maturity and talent to survive a major league pennant race.
Zack Segovia spot started for the Phillies on April 8th and got shellacked by the Marlins in the second inning for the loss. Still, he had only one bad inning, which is more than you can say for some. Three out of his last four starts have been good ones in Triple-A Ottawa and the Phillies would take those odds in a heartbeat down the stretch from a fifth starter right now.
Matt Childers (1.49 WHIP) has four wins in nine starts for the punchless Ottawa Lynx. Childers has bounced around and had cups of coffee with Milwaukee in 2002 and Atlanta in 2005, both organizations with a keen eye for talent. Childers just might find his lifelong dream come true if he can reel off a string of solid starts for the Lynx. He’s definitely in the running.
Charles Weatherby III was recently converted to a starter with Ottawa after beginning the season as a reliever at Double-A Reading. In four starts he has two wins and a 1.00 WHIP. A few more good starts and why not give him a spot start with a fighter’s chance to stick?
J.A. Happ stood tall and showed maturity while getting trashed in his Major League debut, but now he needs to recover from injuries and a bruised ego. Maybe the Phillies will give Happ one more start, or maybe his Triple-A teammate Bubba Nelson will earn the chance first.
At Double-A Reading, there’s Matt Maloney, Tim McClaskey and Carlos Carrasco. Lower still, Andrew Carpenter and Josh Outman are standouts in A-ball.
Most of the good pitching in the Phillies system is within the lower ranks, but there’s a real danger of rushing guys and ruining them for the organization. Most kids will say they want a shot no matter what, but the pressures are enormous in Philadelphia.
Carrasco in particular has excellent stuff, but he’s occasionally wild. After three seasons of A-ball he is barely out of his teens. Still, he fits the mold of a guy who might be lightning in a bottle, which the Phillies definitely need. He also fits the mold of a raw talent who isn’t ready.
Is it fair to ask a 20 year-old with under three seasons experience at A-ball to make a leap to the playoffs? Only if you win.
Meanwhile, The Phillies owners stand before the court of public opinion with a rap sheet that would have made Charles Manson blush. House of 10,000 corpses, the grisly tale of woe, another game, another loss, another low.
As Philadelphians, we understand all too well that things don’t always go your way. New York city is bigger and richer. They have two baseball franchises and more championship rings than the Phillies have fingers, including Antonio Alfonseca’s extras.
Go ahead and cry if you want to cry. But get over it.
Only a loser likes talking about losing. 10,000 losses really means nothing to the players, and they probably wonder why it means anything to you. Why should Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley or Kyle Kendrick or Carlos Ruiz care about how bad the Phillies were thirty years before they were born?
They shouldn’t. And they don’t. Not really. There are still games to play. They play almost every day. Half a season remains.
Get over it.
These 2007 Phillies are still in the race. Unfortunately, they are in desperate need of a starting pitcher. For the 10,000th time.
Paul Abbot? Adam Bernero? J.D. Durbin?
Can’t get over it.