With Jon Lieber likely gone for the remainder of the season, the Phillies will be forced to use their imaginations to make ends meet.
Before we get down to business, thanks to everyone for keeping the discussion lively, thoughtful and civil during my summer retreat to Holland. Yesterday marked the first time I saw a single shred of Phillies news since leaving for Newark Airport on Monday, June 18. With a chance to finish their six-game road trip a subtle 3-3, I spent yesterday afternoon watching the game and catching up on your comments during the rain delay. It was a great win - in a quiet way. It was there for the taking, and they took it.
A series win in St. Louis marks one of many headlines missed while drinking Amstel, Heineken and Grolsch at one of Amsterdam’s picturesque cafes. We visited five in all. Once in a while, while watching the bicycles roll by, I wondered whether the Phils would make a small transaction while I was away, maybe trade Wes Helms for something. Instead, they signed left-handed castoff J.C. Romero to a minor league deal – probably a fleeting idea that ran through my head while sipping a pils. Rest assured I was the only person in Holland pondering the Phils’ bullpen and thinking about players like R.J. Swindle. I’m told the left-hander has been unhittible in Low-A Lakewood. When I returned, my inbox also contained news that Marlon Byrd – a Beerleaguer favorite – is hitting the cover off the ball for Texas (.378/.421/.520/.941). When the Phillies were shopping for outfield help this winter, I would have considered Byrd. (I recall an hour-long telephone conversation with fellow blogger Tom Goodman about this subject).
I worried they’d suffer another injury, and as it turned out, they did, a major blow to the pitching staff with Jon Lieber rupturing a tendon in his foot. He’s probably out for the season. Unless they make a significant trade, their playoff chances are slim. The odds are heavily against it due to their lack of tradable commodities. The Mets and Braves can offer more. Both squads are certain to add a pitcher. But weirder things have happened.
The chances are high the Phillies will go after a marginal veteran. Names like Steve Trachsel and Jose Contreras come to mind. Others like Kyle Lohse of Cincinnati seems like the kind of tablescrap that would fall into Phillies’ hands some random afternoon.
In the short-term, they need a starter for one of the games of Friday's day-night doubleheader against the Mets and will need to come up with something for Saturday afternoon afternoon as well. I can see Ryan Madson stepping into one of those slots. Pitching coach Rich Dubee has already said he is an option, and Madson welcomed the idea during yesterday’s interviews. Honestly, he’s a better option than what they have in the minors, and he’s been tough on the Mets. Over 41 2-3 innings, he’s limited them to a .201 average while posting a 1.01 WHIP and 2.03 ERA. I say go with Mad Dog for one of them.
Then it’s a crapshot for the other start. I’ve seen J.D. Durbin (Triple-A Ottawa), J.A. Happ (Ottawa) and a wild idea of brining 20-year-old Carlos Carrasco to the show. Carrasco just got called up to Double-A Reading. Recently, the Phils have had success promoting talent prematurely (Hamels, Kendrick, Zagurski), but none of them was as young as Carrasco.
Happ, the 24-year-old left-hander, was hit around last night and was shut down with arm problems earlier this month. Durbin, 25, a power right-hander, was a former top prospects of the Twins who bounced around waivers and fell into Philadelphia hands earlier this season. He's gone 2-4 with a 4.55 ERA in 10 starts and has settled in lately. On Saturday, he allowed two runs over seven innings. Former Braves prospect Bubba Nelson (2-2, 4.80 ERA) is a spot start candidate, though I haven’t seen his name printed anywhere.
None of this is ideal. My preference is to move Madson back into the rotation and see what happens before offering up prospects in a trade. With Kyle Kendrick now firmly in the fold, the Phillies might be in over their heads should they go with Happ or another unproven. Madson has experience on his side.
Buy/Sell: At 39-36, the Phillies are in familiar bargain shopper mode. It's unlikely that even the front office is convinced they’re a playoff team, they don’t have the resources to make a trade, but they’re good enough not to throw in the towel. Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, the White Sox figure to be major player in the outcome of the NL East. Depending on the publication, left-hander Mark Buehrle will land with either the Mets, Braves or Red Sox. Jon Garland is also on the table. Give GM Ken Williams credit. He had enough foresight to look around the juggernauts in the AL East and start swinging the sledgehammer even before the season got underway. That’s how Freddy Garcia became the Phillies’ problem.
Romero official release: It wouldn’t feel right without fleshing out the Romero deal a little better. It’s a minor league contract (RSB called it a "Value Village" deal, which I liked) and he has begun workouts in Clearwater. Once he’s ready, he figures to be added to the roster.
Romero, 31, was 1-0 with one save and a 3.15 ERA in 23 games for the Red Sox this season before being designated for assignment by the club on June 8 when righthander Mike Timlin was reinstated from the disabled list. Romero was released on June 18. Nineteen of his 23 appearances for Boston this season were scoreless and he posted a 1.88 ERA (3 ER, 14.1 IP) in his final 15 games, but he had major control problems. His last appearance came June 4 at Oakland (1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 1 SO).
In 2002, Romero went 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA in a career-high 81 games for Minnesota. From 2002 through 2006, he appeared in 361 games, which was the fourth-highest total among all major league pitchers over that five-year span. He has a career record of 27-22 with three saves and a 4.54 ERA in 415 games (22 starts) for the Twins (1999-2005), Angels (2006) and Red Sox (2007) and has held left-handed hitters to a .232 average. As a reliever, Romero is 24-11 with a 3.89 ERA in 393 career appearances.
Burrell being phased out: Pat Burrell became a hot topic (again) while I was away. No matter which side you fall, we can all agree Burrell has lost his job again. Not for Michael Bourn necessarily, who had a great day at the plate yesterday, but for whatever works, including Greg Dobbs, Jayson Werth, or whatever Charlie Manuel feels that particular day.
It's a significant moment in Burrell's career, and it's the right time for it, although I wish they had someone better from the minor leagues to push him out, a power hitter, not another speed guy. This is actually the second time in less than a season he symbolically lost his job, last year being in the heat of the Wild Card race.
It's kind of over, isn't it? He's hitting .127 with 2 homers this month. The Phils are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, contract-wise, and they're no longer trying desperately to fix him. If the problem is he's pressing, rest assured he'll stay that way as long as he's in bloodstripes. But I also believe pitchers know how to handle him, and he's broken down physically.
He's not part of the future, and increasingly not part of the present. He had a shot to retain his starting spot this season – more than enough time – and failed. He had one early stretch where he became a singles hitter. If it wasn't for that, he would be flatlined.
The difference between riding the pine in 2006 compared to now is he's losing time to marginal players; someone like Dobbs barely qualifies as an outfielder. Last season it was to Jeff Conine, David Dellucci - solid fourth outfielders.
Now it's time to see what they can get from other players, and it appears they can get a better, balanced attack from the alternatives without hurting the lineup. That last part is important, because it's about the whole, not the individual. Aaron Rowand is doing tremendous things hitting fifth behind Ryan Howard. Dobbs is getting RBIs.
Maybe a week or two ago, I thought Burrell was good for one last run (I rated him seventh in my power rankings, tied with Vic, based 100 percent on what he still could do with the lumber.) But even if he was good for that three-game binge where he hits three or four homers, it's not worth the month-long dry patch where you get nothing from LF.