It’s that time of year when baseball teams resemble walking wounded. The latest addition is catcher Mike Lieberthal, who's expected to be out 10 days with a back injury.
The Phillies are no different from any other team this late in the season. For example, over half their outfield is either out or dinged up. That’s common.
A look around the roster finds some new additions to the list. Pitcher Scott Mathieson was moved to the 15-day DL with a sprained right elbow. Though Mathieson was like a sixth starter, the injury is considered serious because the Phillies fear ligament damage, which could lead to Tommy John surgery. For a young pitcher like Mathieson, it could set his development back two years.
The latest casualty is no stranger to injury. Mike the catcher is expected to miss at least a week after suffering back spasms. The Phillies responded by purchasing the contract of catcher Tim Gradoville from Double-A Reading. The Phillies made room for Gradoville by releasing Scranton outfielder Josh Kroeger outright to clear space on the 40-man roster. Kroeger, once considered a decent outfield prospect, was having a terrible year. The Phillies also recalled infielder Danny Sandoval from Reading.
Randy Wolf (3-0, 5.30 ERA) typically throws to Lieberthal, but will instead throw to Carlos Ruiz tonight. Wolf has lasted exactly five innings in each of his last three starts, a victim of high pitch counts mostly, otherwise he's done okay. He’ll get a break against a dreadful Houston lineup that ranks near the bottom in all offensive categories. Wolf enters the game with a 14-game unbeaten streak. He’ll look for No. 15 against fellow southpaw Andy Pettitte (13-13, 4.44 ERA), who looks to win his third straight start.
The Phillies find themselves two games out in the wild card race with just 24 games remaining, so every opportunity now becomes precious. They will continue to lean on the big bat of Ryan Howard, who hit his league-leading 53rd home run his last game. The longer the start from Wolf tonight, the better. The bullpen is running ragged.