27-year-old starter Ricardo Rodriguez is out of options and cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. His spot in the starting rotation is likely blocked by Ryan Madson and Ryan Franklin, and he does not have bullpen experience.
Manager Charlie Manuel has struggled to get him adequate opportunity on the mound while giving enough time to his regulars. Rodriguez got the start yesterday instead of Jon Lieber and allowed only an infield hit through the first three innings, but then in the fourth, allowed two runs on four hits including a homer. So far this spring, he has a 3.38 ERA in 8 innings with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks.
In order to send him to Triple-A, he would need to clear waivers. There are several teams, including pitching-poor Kansas City, that may take a crack at him, leaving the Phillies with nothing to show for the deal the sent Vicente Padilla to Texas. Now would be a good time to trade the right-hander to a team that is getting nervous about starting pitching, but the chances of a team getting him simply by waiting on his release seems equally possible.
Again, Kansas City is a good target. Their potential starting five has not pitched well this spring, including Scott Elarton (7.71 ERA), Denny Bautista (5.63 ERA), Runelvys Hernandez (5.40 ERA), Joe Mays (9.62 ERA) and Jeremy Affeldt (5.63 ERA). In addition, Mark Redman, who figured to be the team’s third starter, underwent underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week with no immediate word on his return.
Rodriguez been in the American League his entire big-league career, breaking in with Cleveland in 2002. According to a report this morning on the Phillies Web site, a number of scouts watched Rodriguez's outing yesterday, but their employers were not mentioned.
Another option is for the Phillies to begin the season with Rodriguez in their bullpen and go with a roster that includes 12 pitchers. This way they can see whether Rodriguez can help them in the bullpen, and perhaps bolster his value in a trade. With this scenario, expect Robinson Tejeda to begin the season in Triple-A.
At the very worst, the deal that sent Vicente Padilla to Texas has the potential to turn into a real blunder for Pat Gillick if Rodriguez bombs and is put on waivers. Even though salary and a headache was cut, there is no excuse not to get a warm body back in return for a pitcher of Padilla’s caliber, even if it's at the minor league level.
At the very best, Rodriguez could stay healthy, harness his command and really help the starting rotation.
Rodriguez, Franklin and Robinson Tejeda, still working the bullpen for the Dominicans in the WBC, represent the biggest spring quandary for Manuel and company - at least in my mind.
Fifth man update
According to Phillies mailbag, outfielder Shawn Garrett is in the lead for the final spot on the Phillies' bench.