When it comes to the Phillies' organization, there's an express lane to Philadelphia reserved for left-handed relievers.
Earlier this week we discussed John Sickels' Phillies prospect grades and lamented the organization's lack of sure-fire future star. The problem with these lists is they never account for the path of least resistance. Consider all the talented blue-chippers who never make it, then consider left-handed misfits like Mike Zagurski, Juan Perez, Sergio Escalona and R.J. Swindle and how often the Phils reach for a spare lefty. The Phils don't discriminate, either. They'll reach for the hottest hand, regardless of athleticism or pedigree. Anthony Hewitt, an amazing athlete chosen by the Phillies in the first round of the 2008 draft, will probably never make it, but Jake Diekman, a failed starter selected in the 30th round in 2007, is likely to earn at least a cup of coffee somewhere, at some point.
Diekman, 24, had a quality season pitching for Double-A Reading (3.05 ERA, 83/44 K/BB ratio in 65 IP) and has not allowed a hit in 6 1-3 innings so far in the Arizona Fall League.
Diekman wasn't even mentioned in Sickels' list, which included 21 rated players and 20 honorable mentions. Sickels isn't alone in his prejudice; loogys never get any love. It's not for a lack of need, either. Think about how many times a contending team kicks the tires on an Arthur Rhodes, a Mike Gonzalez or a George Sherrill at the trade deadline. The Phils needed help in this area, too, and always seem to need a spare lefty, adding J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre in midseason deals in 2007 and 2008. Rhodes, Gonzalez, Sherrill and Romero are free agents yet again, along with fellow lefties John Grabow, Javier Lopez, Damaso Marte, Trever Miller, Darren Oliver and Brian Tallet. They'll all find work somewhere and the best ones will be bartered off to a contending team at midseason. That's how it goes.
Lefties can live forever. Les Walrond has circled the globe, waiting for the elusive door to open at a shot at joining baseball's lefty buffet. The 34-year-old lefty twirled 6 1-3 shutout innings and struck out seven Friday night in lowering his Venezuelan winter ball ERA to 0.96. Venezuela is the latest stop on an itinerary that's included Philadelphia, Allentown, Yokohama, Japan, Doosan, Korea, Lancaster, Pa., Reading and back to Allentown, all since 2008.
At the very least, he's been to the Show. That's something Jeff Jackson can never say.