In fact, two young left-handers, Sergio Escalona and Antonio Bastardo, are influencing some of the decisions that are being made regarding the big league club. Both pitched with the Phillies last season and Bastardo was even on the post-season roster.
The emergence of both has the Phillies considering whether they really need to spend the money that it would take to re-sign lefty Scott Eyre or whether they might be better off entrusting one of them with a full-time job out of the bullpen. The fact that another left-hander, J.C. Romero, is coming off elbow surgery and may need time to settle in should also give one of the lefties a shot at starting the season in Philadelphia.
Escalona posted a 4.61 ERA in 14 games with the Phillies, but was also spending much of his time shuttling between Reading, Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. Finally, the Phillies decided that he was best served to work on a couple of issues at Double-A Reading and dropped him down for the rest of the year in late July, rather than shuttling him back-and-forth.
Bastardo started five games for the Phillies, but his true future lies in working out of the bullpen. His 6.46 ERA with the big league club last season developed thanks to rough outings against Boston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. A look deeper into his stats shows that he had trouble settling into his starts (opponents had a .310 average against him the first time that they saw him), but that he did eventually settle in before wearing out and again being hit hard by opponents.
Because his repertoire isn't extremely deep, Bastardo is best suited to relieving and that's where the Phillies figure to use him in the future.
If Bastardo and Escalona aren't enough, the Phillies also have Mike Zagurski. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, Zagurski proved that he was healthy with a full, successful season at Reading, where he posted a 3.57 ERA in 45 relief appearances. While some were waiting for Zagurski to reappear in the Phillies bullpen, the Phillies were content just to let him prove he was healthy and redevelop his velocit at Double-A. The story will be different though in 2010, as the Phillies will seek to find out just how good Zagurski can be and how much he might be able to help the big league club or at least provide some insurance at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Possibly at this time next season, another left-hander, Yohan Flande will be pushing his way toward Philadelphia. Flande split 2009 between Clearwater and Reading and is likely to split 2010 between Reading and Lehigh Valley. Of course, being a starter, the Phillies will have to decide on whether they can fit another lefty into the rotation. As of now, there's Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ, although Lee is set for free agency following the 2010 season.
Of course, with the Winter Meetings underway, it bears mentioning that any of these young lefties could also be used in a package deal to find another key addition to the big league club. But with the Phillies not needing any major pieces, it's doubtful that the Phillies will be looking to shed any of their left-handers for too low of a price.