The Phillies are faced with one of those perplexing numbers games that teams
sometimes come up against. When Pedro Martinez is ready to pitch at the major
league level, they will technically have seven starters for five spots, although
Rodrigo Lopez has already been moved to the bullpen, leaving six real
So, how do you fit six people into five chairs?
Simple, really. Stick with me on this one. One of the concerns about Pedro
Martinez was how deep into games he could pitch. Charlie Manuel actually
referred to him as a "five inning pitcher" and we know how those guys
can burn a bullpen. Jamie Moyer has had himself a tough season and is averaging
5.6 innings per start. What if the Phillies piggy-backed Martinez and Moyer?
Either of them could start, depending on the lineup that they're facing and
then the other comes in to start the fifth inning. That way, you're only
counting on each of them for four innings of work. If whichever one starts is
throwing particularly well, then he can stay in for an extra inning or two,
leaving the other to finish out the game. It would also give Manuel the option
to pinch-hit early for his pitcher if a key spot comes up. Let's say the
Phillies are down 2-0 in the fourth, have the bases loaded and one out with the
pitcher's spot coming up. He would have the luxury of pinch-hitting and not
having to worry about blowing apart his bullpen. After all, if Manuel has both
Martinez and Moyer in his rotation, that makes for two spots that aren't likely
to give him a lot of innings, making for a worn out bullpen.
The downside is that both pitchers would have to acclimate themselves to
pitching without a definitive starting time, but you can generally figure about
when the fifth inning would be coming, so it wouldn't be that tough of a
situation to deal with.
Right now, the odd-man-out of the rotation seems to be young J.A. Happ, but
that doesn't make a lot of sense. Happ's contributions to the club have been
huge this season and dropping him into the bullpen would be diminishing the
potential return from him, except in one situation. What if J.A. Happ were to go
to the back of the bullpen, rather than the front? Instead of making him a long
reliever, the Phillies could put him into the late inning mix.
Take a quick look at Happ's "clutch stats" this season. With
runners in scoring position and two outs, opponents are hitting just .073
against him. In games deemed "late and close" - situations where the
game is in the seventh inning or later with the game tied or the opposing team
either ahead by a run or having the tying run either hitting or on deck -
opponents hit just .182 against Happ. Plus, he's worked as a reliever, so he
knows how to get ready and handle the rigors of pitching in relief.
As for who exits the Phillies 25 man roster when Martinez is added, there are
a couple of options. The most obvious would be to assign Lopez to Triple-A
Lehigh Valley, but he would have to pass through waivers and might not make it.
That's not a huge concern, but in a perfect world, Lopez would be around to add
a little veteran insurance. Of course, if he were to come up with an
"injury", the Phillies could put him on the DL and then send him to
Lehigh Valley on a "rehab" assignment before he would return in
September when rosters expand.
Could there be another candidate to be voted off the island? This may not be
the most popular idea, but what about Chad Durbin? He's got a very pedestrian
4.62 ERA this season and has walked 33 hitters in 48 2/3 innings of work. Some
of his peripheral numbers aren't bad, though - just five of 19 inherited runners
scored and an opponents average of .228 - so he's not exactly the first name
that you think of cutting, although pitching coach Rich Dubee publicly ripped
Durbin for not disclosing his injury sooner. Like with Rodriguez, the Phillies
could push off a decision by sending Durbin on a rehab assignment until
September 1 rolls around.
There are ways to make the numbers work, but it will take some juggling. The
key is to find the right mix of pitchers in the right roles for the Phillies to
repeat as World Champions.