Before we get started on our weeklong marathon of first-half reviews and second-half previews, a word about left-handed relief, and how the Phillies probably screwed up.
Let's start in Reading with a look at the last-place Double-A team, a squad that was supposed to be overflowing with talent and make a run at an Eastern League title. Pitching has been central to their problems. For all his talent, Carlos Carrasco has been inconsistent. Andrew Carpenter, considered a top 10 prospect, was demoted to single-A weeks into the season after arriving out of shape. And then there’s left-hander Josh Outman, another highly regarded prospect, who was converted to a reliever via front office mandate. Reading Eagle beat writer Mike Drago offers his take.
“Outman and Fabio Castro, the fifth member of the original rotation, were doing fine until word came down from Philadelphia in early May that the two lefties were to be sent to the bullpen,” Drago writes. “That decision, especially concerning Outman, remains questionable on several fronts. Whether or not it was a good idea or eventually will profit the big club won't be known for some time. What is known is that in the short term it was disastrous for a Reading club that was pretty much spinning its wheels at the time. Subtracting Outman and Castro from the rotation, while at the same time thrusting them into different roles - and in Outman's case, one he had to learn on the job - just greased the skids for a collapse. No wonder the Phils went just 8-20 with a 5.56 ERA in May.”
On the season, Outman has a 3.20 ERA and 66/37 K/BB ratio, holding left-handed hitters to a .198 average. Meanwhile, Carpenter has turned the corner in Clearwater.
Moving on to R.J. Swindle, who was demoted yesterday. Charlie Manuel got into a bind and needed to use Swindle in a couple blowouts, essentially leaning on him like a mop-up man. The problem with that is he’s strictly a situational left-hander. Even in the minor leagues, he’s used in a very specific way. Without the mix and match, it got ugly in a hurry. Mark Reynolds, who homered off him Saturday, is hitting .913 of left-handers. And although he struck him out in his second turn, drawing David Wright as your first Major-League assignment must have been Swindle's worst nightmare.
Between Outman, who’s adapting to his new role, Swindle, who returns to Lehigh Valley in pieces, and the failed attempt to salvage anything from Steve Kline, they’re left to pursue Colorado reliever Brian Fuentes, as reported in today's paper.