There are no easy answers should Randy Wolf need season-ending Tommy John surgery, but one option is to seek hidden treasure on the cheap.
Digging through the scrap heap is a strategy that works for some teams like Atlanta and Seattle (Kerry Ligtenberg – Pioneer League bullpen find for the Braves several years back, Bobby Madritch, 6-3, 3.27 ERA for Mariners in second half of 2004), but never seems to work for the Phils (Paul Abbott – released by Tampa Bay, horrid last season).
One name out there is veteran left-hander Donovan Osbourne, pitching with the independent Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. He’s 2-3, but has a 1.84 ERA, second lowest in the league. I'm not saying he's the answer, but why not send a scout to L.I. for the weekend to check into it?
Fans might be unwilling to accept anything but an ex-Cy Young winner like Barry Zito to replace Wolf, and may be quick to remember the Abbott disaster last season, but the economics of the situation may limit their choices.
The Phils’ practice of ignoring the independent and foreign leagues is pretty silly, and the Braves have been able to repeat as division champs, in large, because of their resourcefulness in patching holes with retreads. The best example is ageless wonder Julio Franco who bats fourth about twice a week for the Bravos.
In general, any pitcher doing well in the Atlantic League is worth considering. Talent-wise, it’s about on-par with Double-A.
Needless to say, the Phils advanced scouts should be working overtime to come up with some options to solve this dilemma, and I'd hate to see the Phils ignore this avenue just because Abbott didn't work out.
The Reading Phillies are a pitiful 26-41 this season, dead last in the Eastern League. It comes as no surprise.
Entering the season, the roster was overstuffed with veteran retreads from other teams, including an opening-day starting five comprised of players from other organizations.
As Mike Drago pointed out yesterday, the troubles can be partially blamed on a potentially good rotation that was never realized due to injury, including top prospect Cole Hamels, Keith Bucktrot and Edwin Moreno.
As for their replacements, their top starters – Seung Hak Lee, Chris Rojas and Allen Davis – have done OK, but are 26, 28 and 29 respectively. Ouch.
So far, top prospects Michael Bourn and Chris Roberson have done well but project as nothing more than slap hitters with great speed. Bourn is young, but Roberson is not (25), and is still considered pretty green.
The talent void in Double-A is a major problem that should not be taken lightly. This will come back to bite the organization very soon.