Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day game against the Yankees was a blast. The Phils and more than half of the almost 10,000 fans in attendance were decked out in green Phillies gear. Best of all, the Fightins’ prevailed over the Evil Empire by a count of 3-2. The Phillies got to Carl Pavano after he came on to relieve an impressive Andy Pettitte. Aaron Rowand had the gamewinner as he singled in the two runs in seventh. Jamie Moyer gave up just a single run in four and a third innings work – lowering his Spring ERA to 2.51. Matt Smith looked solid in relief and despite an ERA of 12.00 is making a good case to lock up one of the two remaining spots in the bullpen.
Even if the pen is finalized soon, there would be no guarantee of its performance. As of today, Phillies relievers have a combined 6.19 ERA this Spring. Brett Myers pitched masterfully yesterday in a split-squad game against the Rays only to have his lead squandered by Antonio Alfonseca and Tom Gordon. Since it is becoming less and less likely that Pat Gillick will be able to bring in a new arm before Opening Day, the Phillies need assistance. Perhaps the starters can help.
Of course this can be taken to mean one of the six starters (Jon Lieber) can could move to the bullpen, but also it could mean having the starters pitch more innings. The Phils had just four complete games last year (2 by Lieber, and 1 each by Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd) and no starter pitched more than 200 innings. However this year, Freddy Garcia brings to the mound an average of 222 innings pitched per year; Adam Eaton over 201. If Cole Hamels and Brett Myers can stay healthy, there is no reason they can’t put up similar numbers. Myers dropped 30 pounds in the off season and looks lean and in shape. So even though the Phillies bullpen is their weakest link, there is a good chance this deficiency can be mitigated if the starters go deep into games.
Programming Note: Tune in to the Brian Startare show on 610 WIP tonight at Midnight where I will be talking Phillies and recapping the Spring Training trip.