As I wrote a few weeks ago, the competition for the fifth spot in the Phillies’ rotation was really less about who earned and more about the cost/benefit ratio and feasibility of having a 47-year-old man take the hill every fifth day and go up against players half his age.
And as of 7:00 EST on Friday, the rotation was still in a state of flux. Kyle Kendrick, from a performance standpoint, was the leading candidate for the spot. However, Jamie Moyer kept pace, leading many to believe that, barring a collapse of some sort, he was the likely winner of the competition – probably before it even started.
But his fate was all but sealed tonight, when he pitched a masterful six and two-thirds against the New York Yankees, as he allowed two base runners on a hit and a HBP, while striking out six on 79 pitches.
Say what you want about spring training, but it was an impressive performance for the veteran against a Yankees lineup that won’t look too much different on Opening Day. And with that, at least we can rest easier knowing that Moyer at least appeared to have earned his spot, rather than have it handed to him because of his tenure.
And despite a steadfast refusal to comment on the situation from Charlie Manual or Rich Dubee, and in the latter’s case, a straight-up silent treatment, the writing is on the wall: Jamie Moyer starts the season in the rotation. Where does he finish it? Well, that’s up to Jamie.
Now, the question remains: What happens to Kendrick? Whatever the case, it is certainly not the fate befitting of someone who has worked as hard and performed as well as Kyle Kendrick. However, it is the way of the world.
Unfortunately for Kendrick, he has minor league options, which allows the Phillies some room to maneuver with the pitching staff. He can be sent down to the minors to start, or to the bullpen as a long man/middle reliever. With J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge likely to miss the first week of the season, it’s a simple and short term solution. However, there are only seven spots in the bullpen, and assuming Lidge and Romero both come back sooner rather than later, it leaves one open spot after accounting for Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez and Chad Durbin.
Likely candidates to fill that spot are (R) Kendrick, (L) Antonio Bastardo, and (R) David Herndon. All three are viable options: Kendrick has the experience, but not as a reliever. Bastardo spent most of his time in 2009 as a starter, and despite his spring struggles, would be the only left in the ‘pen until Romero returns. Herndon, whom the Phillies selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has allowed nary a run in nine innings of work in the spring. His heavy sinker endears him to Citizen’s Bank Park and is well suited for coming into the game with runners on and in need of a ground ball. However, he has to remain on the big league roster for the entire season, or the Phils have to offer him back to LA, and thus, risk losing him.
Three pitchers, one spot.
Here’s how I think it shakes out:
Kendrick, due to his minor league options, gets sent to AAA to be a starter. This will allow him to be called up to be a spot starter without having to build up his innings, as he would have to do if he was a relief pitcher.
Bastardo, despite his relative inexperience in the bullpen, will start the season as the sole lefty out of the ‘pen until Romero comes back from the DL.
Herndon, who has been very impressive this spring, will make the big league roster as a reliever. Despite not having logged a single inning in The Show, he has more than warranted a spot out of the ‘pen.
Assuming that Lidge and Romero return and are both healthy and effective, then these problems will sort themselves out rather easily. Bastardo gets sent down to join Kendrick, and assuming Herndon pitches well, he stays on the roster for the duration of the season.
Keep in mind, that this can all change at the drop of a hat. Moyer is 47-years-old, and unlike the rest of the rotation, he will be competing for a rotation spot each time he takes the hill. Coupled with his off season surgeries, he is the most fragile of the bunch.
It’s not an easy call for the 2010 Fightins. They have too many pitchers and not enough spots. Fortunately for them, most everyone has proven their worth in the spring. Ultimately, it comes down to who can prove their mettle when the rubber hits the road. If everything continues, as is? Well, that’s a very good problem to have.
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