Left-handed starter Travis Blackley pitched two games for the Giants last season and is a product of the Seattle farm system. Righty reliever Lincoln Holdzkom pitched in Double and Triple-A for Boston.
Blackley, 25, began his career in the Seattle chain under you-know-who and was once considered a top pitching prospect after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2000. After a brief 2004 call-up with the Mariners, the year he was considered the third-best pitcher in their system, the Australian southpaw suffered a career-changing setback when he underwent shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, knocking him out for all of 2005 and hindering him through 2006. In 2007, he was traded to the Giants for outfielder Jason Ellison and he pitched most of the season with Triple-A Fresno, where he went 10-8 with a 4.66 ERA and 121/68 K/BB ratio in 28 healthy starts. A September call-up, Blackley started two games for the Giants, lasting 5 innings then 3 2-3 innings to the tune of a 7.27 ERA.
In six minor league seasons, all as a starter, Blackley is 55-39 with a 3.69 ERA. Early in his career, he was compared to Mark Buehrle, mixing four pitches with a plus change and some success with a curveball. He is not a hard thrower.
Holdzkom, who will be 26 at the start of the season, was originally a 7th round pick of the Florida Marlins in the 2001 draft and also pitched in the Chicago Cubs organization. After undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2003, he missed much of the next two seasons and only broke into Double-A by the end of the 2006 season. A reliever almost his entire six-year minor league career, Holdzkom pitched 53 2-3 innings between Portland and Pawtucket in 2007. According to Baseball Cube, 2007 marked the first time he was touched up for a home run. Holdzkom relies on a cut-fastball, a two-seam fastball and a slurve pitch. He pitched seven relief innings in the Arizona league this fall, fanning 10 while walking 4.
By rule, Blackley and Holdzkom need to stay on the Phillies 25-man roster all season or else be offered back to their original club. Both should be considered longshots to stick.
Beerleaguer: I made the mistake last season of spending too much time on the Rule 5 picks, neither of whom made it through spring training. Blackley sounds more promising than either of the 2006 guys, and I’ll leave it at that. According to Mike Arbuckle, the Phillies will give Blackley an opportunity to win a job as a fifth starter, which is what teams must do with they take players in the Rule 5, so I have no problem with the statement. Right now, Blackley sounds like a healthier version of J.A. Happ, who had arm issues, so there’s no need for outrage by extending a tryout to Blackley.
Save the frustration for the rest of the non-action happening in Nashville. The Phillies reportedly sent 38 people to the Winter Meetings. Thirty-eight. Sounds like the only acquisitions so far have been a couple of ice cream cones from Haagen-Dazs with Iguchi's agent.