Look around the Phillies 25-man roster. It’s nice, isn’t it? There’s a new outfielder tearing up the field and blasting balls into the stands. There’s a bullpen that — while patchwork — gets the job done. But we know there are problems with the defending champion Phils. What are they?
- The back end of the rotation is insufficient.
- Left-handed relief is being used the wrong way.
- The bench is too big; the bullpen is too small.
The offense is fine. Yes, Jimmy Rollins is struggling, but his past doesn’t indicate he’ll remain close to a .200 hitter. And there’s no reason to believe Jayson Werth is a .250 hitter. Moreover, Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez are playing above their career norms. But pitching has obvious holes. Let’s go through those three in depth:
The back end of the rotation is insufficient.
It’s entirely too early to write off Brett Myers, considering his past. And Cole Hamels will be fine — he was coming around until the ankle rolled; he should sit out his next scheduled start and go this weekend against Atlanta. But Joe Blanton is tough to chew — he’s throwing fat fastballs, mishandling his control and allowing batters to rip his breaking stuff. And Chan Ho Park hasn’t shown to be a major league starter — period.
Fix it: Give Park one more chance to stick in the rotation. If he looks anything like Friday, JA Happ should move to the rotation. Park becomes a middle reliever, and he’ll have to live with it. As far as Blanton? Give him a few more chances, but if things aren’t working, a midseason move might be in order.
Left-handed relief is being used the wrong way.
Saturday Scott Eyre was used against switch- and right-handed hitters. Sure, Charlie Manuel didn’t have a large hand, but Eyre wasn’t the right move. His career splits against righties (.281 AVG, .817 OPS) show he’s just not as effective against righties. Jack Taschner had trouble in the 10th, but he luckily threw a double play ball to the scorching Carlos Beltran.
Fix it: If Park moves to the bullpen, he becomes a treasured middle reliever from the right. Bringing up Gary Majewski or Tyler Walker wouldn’t hurt, either.
The bench is too big; the bullpen is too small.
As long as the rotation struggles, the bullpen will be taxed. Yes, Clay Condrey has been an unexpected godsend (3-0, 1.26 ERA), but can he keep it up as a setup man? Is Chad Durbin good enough to remain a setup man? Meanwhile the Phils are barely getting work out of Miguel Cairo — he didn’t even enter a game where Manuel used almost all his bench Saturday. Stop the madness now.
Fix it: By bringing up Majewski you instantly increase the bullpen. By bringing down Cairo you might lose him (he doesn’t have to agree), but you still have Pablo Ozuna in the minors. And you have John Mayberry Jr. and Jason Donald, just in case.
Conclusion: These aren’t big changes, and they’re changes we’ve spoken about already. It’s simple: Bring up Majewski, send down Cairo, move Happ to the rotation, move Park to the bullpen. Easy as pie. So far, not making these moves has cost the Phillies approximately two to three wins. Hey, it would be nice to be 15-7, right?
Luckily these aren’t big problems. Even the rotation should improve; of course, if it doesn’t there will be gigantic issues. For now, though, the task is simple. And it should be acknowledged.