With Cole Hamels expected to miss at least a few starts in April, it would appear a handful of fifth-starter candidates would spend the spring competing for the opportunity to fill in. But it might better serve the Phillies to go with a four-man staff until Hamels returns.
If Hamels misses just two starts, the off-days work in the Phillies' favor. They have a day off after their season-opening three-game series in Texas, which would allow opening day starter Cliff Lee to pitch the fifth game of the season on regular rest.
The Phils then have another day off after their home opener. They play the Brewers on Monday, April 7 and have Tuesday off before finishing the series the following two days. This is another opportunity for the Phils to set their rotation up in a way that eliminates the fifth starter.
On the one hand, giving your starters additional rest early in the season as they're building up arm strength is a plus. On the other, giving two starts to Ethan Martin or Sean O'Sullivan or Jeff Manship might be the same as throwing away two games. Martin struggled after his first trip through the order in 2013, and the other two are journeymen on non-guaranteed deals.
If Jonathan Pettibone was healthy, this might not be a conversation, but his ailing right shoulder has set him back to the point that he probably won't compete for that fifth spot in Clearwater.
If the Phils do go with a four-man rotation until Hamels returns, here's how the first batch of games could look:
Mon, 3/31: Cliff Lee
Tues, 4/1: A.J. Burnett
Wed, 4/2: Kyle Kendrick
Thurs, 4/3: OFF
Fri, 4/4: Roberto Hernandez
Sat, 4/5: Cliff Lee
Sun, 4/6: A.J. Burnett
Mon, 4/7: Kyle Kendrick
Tues, 4/8: OFF
Wed, 4/9: Roberto Hernandez
After April 9, the Phillies have a game in 18 consecutive days.
Grapefruit League action begins
Here's the Phillies' lineup in their Grapefruit League opener against the Blue Jays.
1) Ben Revere, CF
2) Jimmy Rollins, SS
3) Chase Utley, 2B
4) Ryan Howard, 1B
5) Marlon Byrd, RF
6) Bobby Abreu, DH
7) Domonic Brown, LF
8) Carlos Ruiz, C
9) Cody Asche, 3B
Roberto Hernandez is on the hill against former Phillies lefty J.A. Happ.
The game features the announcing debuts of Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer.