What a difference a year makes.
Last season the Phillies seemed to have suspect starting pitching but were riding an excellent bullpen into the playoffs. Once they got there, the starting pitching stepped up, the "Bridge to Lidge" stayed strong, and there was a parade down Broad Street.
This year, the starters are looking formidable, but the "Bridge to Lidge" has suffered a fate similar to the Bridge on the River Kwai or one of those rickety rope bridges from an Indiana Jones movie.
Chan Ho Park's injury is just the latest in a series of setbacks for the pitching staff, and Charlie Manuel will have to be very careful with how he handles his hurlers for the rest of the regular season so they won't be worn out come playoff time.
Teams can, of course, make roster additions and subtractions after each round of the playoffs, but here's how things should go for at least the division series:
Lead off with Cliff Lee, then pitch Cole Hamels in Game Two. I realize Charlie is fiercely loyal to the guys who have gotten him there before and will probably pitch Hamels first, but it should be Lee.
With the two lefties starting a series, hopefully you can put the other team in an 0-2 hole right away and then not have to worry about who would start a potential Game Five.
Pitch Pedro Martinez in the No. 3 slot. This may be his only year as a Phil, so his 36-year-old arm should be ridden for all its worth. Joe Blanton gets the No. 4 slot, where he excelled during last year's playoffs.
J.A. Happ goes to the bullpen. Nothing personal against him, but his left arm is needed in the bullpen since J.C. Romero is not coming back and Scott Eyre has a bone chip in his elbow and is a huge question mark. This is all assuming that Happ himself is healthy.
And you should be ashamed of yourself if Jack Taschner even crossed your mind.
The other lefthanded arm in the bullpen, Jamie Moyer, can be used for marathon extra inning games or to eat innings after a bad start or rain delay.
That leaves five more bullpen slots.
Clay Condrey, just back from a two month DL stint, should be on the playoff roster if he proves fully healthy down the stretch. He will be taking the place of Chad Durbin and filling the same role that Durbin did last year.
Playing the part of Clay Condrey this year will be Tyler Walker. He has done a lot to help himself over the last month, and the Phillies are more or less forced to rely on him now that Park's health is so iffy.
The final three pitchers are Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, and (yes, still) Brad Lidge. Who pitches the eighth? Who closes? I'm not even going to guess.
The point of the matter is, these guys came up big for the team last year and you have to have some faith in them.
Collectively, their 2009 seasons have been marred by injuries and ineffectiveness. But the Phillies only need to bang out 11 more wins in any way that they possibly can.
So cross your fingers, hope the staff doesn't fall apart any more in the next two weeks, and dream a little dream of October (actually, November) glory.
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