Jon Lieber lands on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain suffered in yesterday's 11-2 win over Washington.
Right-hander Brian Sanches, who posted a 2.49 ERA with 23 strikeouts and only 4 walks in 21 1-3 relief innings with Scranton, replaces his spot on the roster for the time being.
A report on Phillies.com lists Triple-A pitchers Matt White and Eude Brito, both left-handers, as possibilities to replace Lieber in the rotation. The article also mentions Double-A prospects Gio Gonzalez and Scott Mathieson as worthy of merit. Clay Condrey has been ruled out by pitching coach Rich Dubee because his pitches show better in relief.
I often wonder how major league bullpens are formed. This is how; situations like this. Pitchers break down, teams activate their best temporary replacements. If they show well, who knows? They could stick around, perhaps for years. If they fail, they'll bounce around some more.
Sanches, and also Condrey who was brilliant in relief yesterday, are two older, non-prospects that have been lights-out in middle relief for the Red Barons. Here, they step into a muddled middle relief situation where just about everyone has failed them.
Sanches, 27, was part of a pretty good crop of unheralded minor leauge acquisitions from two years ago and has been steady ever since. Like Condrey, Sanches was traded by San Diego to the Phils just before the start of the 2004 season.
From an article that appeared during his first season in Reading, coaches attribute Sanches' turn-around to a better fastball:
"Anytime Brian came in early in the year he went right to his curveball," manager Greg Legg said in 2004. "I complained about it to Rod (Nichols, pitching coach). Rod made a good point: He said a lot of relievers are taught from an organization standpoint to come in the game and the first pitch is a breaking ball, strike one. Rod talked to him, and after that he's come in and thrown more fastballs. I think his fastball has got better because he's locating it better. He's having impeccable control with it, in and out, and they've worked down in the pen to get him more velocity."
I've got to be honest. I'm not all that upset about losing Lieber for a few weeks. At 36, he does not look fresh and is having the worst season of his career. I'm excited to see how the club will replace him and how that pitcher will respond to the opportunity. I suspect the time away will be good for the struggling veteran.
The Phillies are desperate for a spark in middle relief. Like Condrey, this is another good opportunity for a late-blooming prospect in Sanches. Around baseball, there are dozens of relievers that have found major-league success by following a similar path.