Phillies have options with playoff pitching rotationby Eric Schwartz
Joe Blanton again made a case to be in the Phillies’ rotation, pitching six scoreless innings in the Phillies 6-1 win over the Nationals.
Of course that comes after Pedro strengthened his case and Cliff Lee assured his. Then there is J.A. Happ who has made a season-long case to pitch come time for the postseason.
Never before has a Phillies team had such a great problem.
At this point there are only two things assured: First, Cole Hamels will be in or near the front of that rotation. Second, Lee will be right there with him.
From there, things get cloudy. For how well he has pitched this season and the fact that he is right-handed points to the notion that Blanton will take the No. 3 or No. 4 spot, but that is not a given. The emergence of the old Pedro Martinez has given manager Charlie Manuel a new option. Pedro threw over 130 pitches on Sunday for the first time since he was a member of the Red Sox. How well he responds to it may determine his fate. If he continues to pitch the way he has (5-0 with an ERA under 4.00) Pedro will be in the postseason rotation.
That would give the Phillies two lefties, two righties and an unhappy Happ. Happ has pitched extremely well this season, to the point he may win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Happ has a 10-4 record with a team-low 2.77 ERA (Lee’s is 2.67, but that is not including his time in Cleveland). Managers like experience in the playoffs though, and Happ is likely the odd man out.
Another reason Happ may be relegated to the bullpen is the uncertainty surrounding left-handers J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre. Each has health concerns and their status for the playoffs is not certain. Jamie Moyer (who by the way has a team-high 12 wins) is not a realistic option as a left-handed specialist, so Happ may be the guy they turn to. Left-handers are hitting jus .206 against Happ making him a good choice for the spot is Eyre or Romero can’t go.
Personally, this would be my postseason rotation:
With home field advantage: Hamels, Martinez, Lee, Blanton
Without home field advantage: Hamels, Lee, Martinez, Blanton
My reasoning is simple: Pedro needs to pitch at home. He feeds off the crowd and they feed off him. Adrenalin is what fuels Pedro these days and pitching in front of a sold-out and raucous Citizens Bank Park will give him his best chance for success. Also, in case of a seven game series, Lee would be set for Game Seven. The Phillies rotation without home field advantage has the plus of having aces Hamels and Lee go back-to-back, but does not have the right-left, right-left flow that managers love to send out.
The job of figuring out the rotation over the next couple of weeks belongs to Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee. In the meantime, it sure is fun to guess.
How would you set up a Phillies rotation with so many options?