Someone's Got To Go Somewhere, and Soon

Andrew Carpenter (Photo: Philly Baseball News)

When Antonio Bastardo went down with an injury last Thursday, the search for yet another starting pitcher to put in the rotation went into high-gear. The search includes looking at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and talks with other clubs about acquiring a starter.

One thing is sure with the Phillies; they keep you guessing.

When Antonio Bastardo went down with what's being called a shoulder strain, the Phillies initially announced that Cole Hamels would move up to start Wednesday and they would find someone else for Thursday. From there, they announced that they would move J.A. Happ up to Thursday and they would need another starter for Friday. Now, there's talk of moving Jamie Moyer up to Friday and the Phillies finding a starter for Saturday.

Could it be that they're buying time? Maybe working on a deal that would bring them a starter from another club? After all, scouts have been flying in and out of Lehigh Valley International Airport and taking the short cab ride to Coca-Cola Park on an almost non-stop basis for the past week. The Orioles, Diamondbacks and Royals have been the most frequent and noticeable. Kansas City even dispatched former Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle to watch the IronPigs and Arbuckle isn't going to head half-way across the country just to take in the ambience of a minor league game. When he comes to town, there is a definite purpose and when he stays for two days, there is more than just a passing fancy.

The Phillies are known to have an interest in either Brian Bannister or possibly, Gil Meche from the Royals. Bannister would seem to be the better target, as Meche has battled some dead arm issues and the Phillies have always liked Bannister. Arbuckle got to see the "big two" when he was in the Lehigh Valley, watching Carlos Carrasco Friday night and Andrew Carpenter Saturday night. Speculation was also floating around that the Royals might also have an interest in Lou Marson, but he was kept out of the lineup in Friday night's game.

With the purchase of former Phillies farmhand Brian Mazone from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday, the Phillies added a sixth starter to their rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. On the surface, it seems like no big deal, but when you look a little deeper, there is something to the addition of Mazone, a minor league journeyman. If the Phillies were going to bring up one of the starters from Lehigh Valley, they could have temporarily put Jake Woods into the rotation, since he's already made four starts this season for the 'Pigs. They also have Kyle Drabek and Joe Savery at Double-A, both waiting for a relatively short drive on I-78 to make the trip from Reading to Lehigh Valley. After all, the Phillies only need another starter temporarily, right?

The suspicion is that Bastardo's injury is more than a strain. Consider that he had a defiant refusal to change speeds while pitching for the Phillies and the pain that he has is in the back of his shoulder. Not to send out any emergency flares, but Bastardo's refusal to change speeds may have been an inability to change speeds and there could be more to the injury than has been disclosed so far. Worst-case scenario would be a torn rotator cuff, but there aren't concrete reasons to jump to any conclusion about Bastardo's injury.

Even so, you have to figure that whoever would come to the Phillies would be there on a temporary basis until they could identify and acquire another starter from somewhere. After all, Ruben Amaro Jr. has been looking for pitching since spring training and he's bound to come up with someone that he can put into the rotation to help a beleaguered pitching staff and with the trade deadline just about four weeks away, it's likely that deal will come pretty quickly.

But perhaps there is a longer term need for a starter at Lehigh Valley because of one of two scenarios.

First - and least likely - the Phillies figure that putting either Carrasco or Carpenter in the rotation long-term is a better solution than acquiring one of the starting pitchers that are out there. It would certainly be easier to accomplish, given the high asking price on many of the starting pitchers who are available in a trade. There is also growing speculation that veteran Rodrigo Lopez, who has pitched well at Lehigh Valley, could get the call and might be as good as some of the pitchers who are being dangled by other clubs. Lopez, who is 5-4, 3.91 on the season, has been especially strong in his last three starts, going 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA and he's lasted seven innings in each of those outings. Lopez missed most of last season after having Tommy John surgery in August of 2007 and some see him as a "secret weapon" for late in the season, either as a starter for the Phillies or as an addition to their bullpen. Lopez has walked just 1.7 hitters per nine innings this season, while striking out 6.6 hitters per nine. He's also allowed just four home runs in 71 1/3 innings, a good number for a pitcher who would have to pitch at Citizens Bank Park.

Second, perhaps one of the pitchers at Lehigh Valley are headed elsewhere as part of a package. The Phillies would be slow to forfeit Carrasco in any trade, unless it included a top of the rotation starter coming over from another club. Carpenter is on the tier just below Carrasco in terms of what it would take to acquire him and being part of a deal for Bannister would be conceivable. Even easier to acquire, but still with some value, would be Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick is simply a guy who needs a change of scenery and would benefit by exiting the Phillies organization. He understands that he's auditioning for other clubs and while he doesn't outwardly exhibit any distaste for being in the Phillies organization, he's been passed over a couple of times when it came to promoting a pitcher and on the one occasion that he was recalled, he was only in the majors for a day. Kendrick still has good stuff, but needs a confidence boost, which would most likely be delivered by heading for another organization. In his last outing, Kendrick threw a complete game, even though he took a 3-1 loss to the Norfolk Tides. It's ironic that the go-ahead runs were the result of his own throwing error on a play at third base. It should also be noted that Kendrick was pitching in front of brass from the Phillies front office, including Amaro, who were visiting Coca-Cola Park to watch their prospects up-close.

Speaking of Amaro's presence to watch Lehigh Valley, it should be noted that the Orioles had a scout in town late last week and Amaro was watching the 'Pigs play the top affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

The Phillies are likely to keep us guessing for the time being. Whether it's a trade, the addition of a young prospect or the return of a major league veteran to the starting rotation, something is going to give in the near future. The Phillies need a starter for Saturday against division rival New York and will have to disclose their solution sometime before then.


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