You may have heard that Randy Wolf is not expected to return to the Phillies rotation until at least mid-July; however even that might be optimistic. This would put Wolf at just over a year since he had Tommy John surgery which is a much quicker rehab than that made by some of his teammates. Tom Gordon and Jon Lieber were out 18 months before pitching again and Rheal Cormier took two full years. Wolf is probably a bit more eager than most to return, being that 2006 will be the final year of his 4 year contract with the Phillies. I’m not saying that he or the Phillies medical staff would be stupid enough to risk further injury, but don’t be surprised it Wolf’s timeline gets pushed back or if he does pitch in July, he will unlikely return to form.
This then leaves the Phillies without a left-handed pitcher in the rotation for much of the season. No matter, says Charlie Manuel, he’s fine with five righties. "A balanced staff is what you look for," Manuel said. "We don’t want all the same type of pitcher. It’s better if we have guys with a little different delivery and style. We have five guys capable of pitching well." Certainly adding Madson to the mix will help diversify the delivery and style aspects of the staff, but it would be nice to occasionally have a lefty on the mound when facing the likes of Cliff Floyd and Carlos Delgado. Only an amazing performance by Eude Brito in spring training would give the Phils a chance of adding lefty to the rotation – but that is highly unlikely. So is having a lefty in the rotation really that important? It is somewhat, for the precise reason Manuel gives. Over the course of a three game series a left-handed starter affords a significant difference in pitching style. Obviously not it would not be wise to throw any old southpaw on the mound, but the Phils would have done well to add one this off-season. Instead of course they picked up Ryan Franklin – a move which would have made a lot more sense if only he were a lefty.