Philadelphia Phillies Look into Magic 8 Ball, Ask "Who Is the Fifth Starter?"
Philadelphia's 2010 will start out a lot like 2009 started out, in regards to the Phillies' need for a fifth starter. Last season it came down to four pitchers, ultimately ending with the Phillies choosing dark horse Chan Ho Park. Park deserved to win the spot after a stellar spring training that saw him beat out JA Happ, who would eventually go on to take the spot from Park.
Park later went onto the bullpen and flourished, becoming one of the best Phillies relievers last year, if not the best. Last year’s fifth starter competition came to an end with most fans scratching their heads and wanting someone else and I think the same will happen this year
For the 2010 version of the battle for the fifth spot, it should come down to four candidates. The first is recently signed Jose Contreras. Contreras started off 2008 with the White Sox and didn’t fair well posting an ERA of 5.42. He then got traded to the Colorado Rockies and pitched well.
In seven games (two starts), Contreras posted an ERA of 1.59 finishing the year with a combined ERA of 4.92. The success Contreras had in the NL with the Rockies could have possibly led to this low risk high reward signing. Contreras is a natural starter but in recent years hasn’t done well in that role. While he will certainly get a shot I can’t imagine he actually wins it.
He has the name but no longer has the talent and will most likely end up in the bullpen
The next player is the person that came into the 2008 race as the incumbent but was the first to lose out in the race. Kyle Kendrick won 21 games for the Phillies in his first two years and finished fifth in the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year voting. Unfortunately for the Phillies, "Mr. Quality Start" got pummeled in his sophomore year and eventually lost his job.
Kendrick couldn’t even beat out Carlos Carrasco last year, a then 21 year old who had never pitched in the majors. Kendrick was sent to AAA Leigh High Valley and went from World Champion to Iron Pig before you could say "KK."
Kendrick had a pretty decent year in 2009 for the Pigs, posting a 3.34 ERA with 62 K, 35 BB, and a WHIP of 1.17 in 143 IP. He saw eventually got called back up with the Phillies but was primarily used out of the bullpen all last year. Kendrick will come in as a heavy favorite to win the job, but I don’t think he will end up with it.
I recently got the chance to sit in on a Q&A with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Upon listening to Ruben discuss Kendrick, it sounded like, to me, that the Phils are looking for Kendrick to fill the void that Clay Condrey held last season. I do believe the Phillies will give him a fair shot to win the job but I think they would rather have him in the bullpen to have a righty groundball pitcher.
The third candidate is coming in as the incumbent but won’t have a chance to prove his worth. Jamie Moyer is 47 years old and coming off of his worst year as a Phillies. After leading the team in wins in 2008 with 16 and posting a 3.71 ERA Moyer acted his age in 2008 as father time posted a 12-10 record with a 4.95 ERA and eventually lost his job to Pedro Martinez.
Moyer accepted his assignment to the bullpen like a man and actually didn’t play all that bad but injured his groin in a game against Houston which ended his season.
Moyer has had three hospital visits in September and isn’t expected to be ready for opening day. This could end up hurting him the most because he won’t be able to defend himself in this fight because of rehabilitation from knee/abdominal surgery. While Moyer probably won’t pitch in spring training, I do think that when he returns he will be given a shot to start mainly because of the amount of money they are paying him.
The only way he won’t be given a shot to redeem himself is if the person who ends up winning the job is pitching lights out baseball.
Finally, I introduce you to the fourth and final candidate for the Phillies fifth starter spot. Andrew Carpenter comes as a virtual unknown. It’s funny because I went to a double header in Washington on Jackie Robinson day. Every player was wearing 42 and Carpenter was called on for a spot start against the lowly Nats.
I was standing around the dugout as he came out to head to the bullpen and normally the fans shout words of encouragement but not this time. Most had no idea what to yell because most had no idea who this guy was. I was maybe one of three people to yell "Let’s go Drew."
Weather you know of him or you don’t the former 2006 second round pick has flown under the radar in his entire minor league/pro career. After a subpar 2008 season that saw him pitch one inning with the big club. 2009 saw Carpenter pitch in Leigh High Valley where he pitched very well.
Carpenter was 11-6 with a 3.35 ERA in his first full season at AAA. He had 120 K, 47 BB but did give up 18 HR. He did have that spot start I mentioned where he ended up giving up 5 ER in 4.1 IP but did pick up his first career win. Carpenter actually pitched fairly well until falling into trouble in the fifth inning.
I truly believe that if given the chance, Carpenter can be this year’s version of JA Happ. Now, don’t expect Happ-like numbers from him but he could come out of nowhere to really take the fifth starter spot and solidify himself as a solid pitcher in this league.
Good news for people cheering for Carpenter is that the Phillies proved last year they will let the best pitcher win the job. No one saw Chan Ho Park winning the job last year but he earned it and the Phillies gave him the keys to the car.
Eventually, the bank repossessed that car and gave it to JA Happ but the fact remains that the Phillies aren’t scared of giving the job to an underdog. Carpenter will turn 25 in May and while he could be sent back down to AAA for some more seasoning I think that by the end of spring training your Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation will look like this:
1) Roy Halladay
2) Cole Hamels
3) Joe Blanton
4) JA Happ
5) Andrew Carpenter
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