Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Oswalt to Return Soon, Who Will Go?
Good news out of Lehigh Valley.
Roy Oswalt feels good and is ready to return to Philadelphia for the final stretch of the season. Having been sidelined since late June with bulging disks in his back, Oswalt now says his velocity is up and there is no more pain his back.
After going six strong innings, Oswalt wrapped up his rehab assignment and is ready to rejoin the team for their west coast trip to San Francisco. Oswalt's schedule has him due to start Saturday against the Giants. However, that is also the day Cole Hamels is next slated to start.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee has not committed to either pitcher yet but has hinted that Oswalt may get the nod to afford Hamels an extra day of rest.
While this is good news for the Phils, it does leave one lingering question—who do they send down to make room for Oswalt?
This is a list of the top candidates.
Honorable Mention: Vance Worley
While this move remains extremely unlikely, it should be noted as a possibility.
Vance Worley has already been optioned this year so it doesn't waste any options. Worley struggled in his last start while Kyle Kendrick is coming off a gem where he threw eight shutout innings and struck out a career high seven batters.
It is conceivable the Phillies could decide to keep Kendrick in the rotation and move Worley to Triple-A to keep both stretched out in the event that Oswalt's back flares up again.
That being said, it is very doubtful the Phillies would take this approach. Worley has been lights out in the rotation. While Kendrick just set his career high with seven strikeouts, Worley is averaging over 7 K/9 IP on the season so far.
Slotting Kendrick back into the bullpen would add another arm to the pen desperately in need of depth while keeping the five best starting pitchers in the rotation.
5. John Mayberry Jr.
Another move that is unlikely but possible.
Much like Worley, John Mayberry Jr. has already fallen victims to the numbers game this year through no fault of his own.
Since the roster currently has only 11 pitchers plus four other outfielders (including Michael Martinez) in addition to him he could be expendable. As he has been optioned already this year, it would not waste any options to send him down for only a month.
Again, this move is not terribly likely to happen. Mayberry was the hero Monday by blasting a two out, two run homer to tie the game in the ninth off Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street.
In addition, he is outperforming all of the other non-starting outfielders on the roster. While this move remains a possibility worth noting, do not count on it happening.
4. David Herndon
David Herndon is an interesting case. On the surface he seems like a logical move. After all, this was a guy who struggled through last season as a Rule 5 draftee and then was a surprise inclusion on the opening day roster this year.
He then had a nightmarish April which resulted in a 9.23 ERA and a demotion to Lehigh Valley. While in Triple-A, word came out they Herndon had been tipping his pitches and he corrected the mechanical flaw.
In late May he was recalled to the Phillies and surprisingly has been one of the best relievers on the team since. Since his return he has posted an improved strikeout rate of 7.3 K/9 IP and a 2.19 ERA.
Charlie Manuel has even showed increased confidence in him as he recently pulled Antonio Bastardo from a bases loaded jam in favor of Herndon who promptly rewarded the manager by getting out of the inning unscathed.
Despite the strides Herndon has taken to improve his game, he still could be the odd man out. With the possibility of returning Kendrick to the pen, his role may be usurped. When it comes down to it, he may be shipped out simply because his chief competitor in the bullpen is left-handed.
3. Juan Perez
Juan Perez appears to be the poor man's J.C. Romero.
He has shown his ability to be dominant at times. He once struck out the side on just nine pitches. Unfortunately he has also shown there are times he has no clue where the strike zone is.
The biggest thing going for him is that he is left-handed. Unfortunately for him, Charlie Manuel has not exhibited much faith in him as he is only used sparingly.
Since Ryan Madson's return from the disabled list, Antonio Bastardo is no longer tied down to the ninth inning. That has freed him up to be available to pitch to left-handed batters whenever a key situation arises thus further marginalizing Perez.
His only saving grace may be that the Phillies are carrying one less pitcher than they typically like to so they may send down a position player instead when Oswalt returns. Then again, with this pitching staff, they may not need that extra pitcher.
2. Wilson Valdez
Last year Wilson Valdez was a godsend for the Phillies.
When injuries hit the infield hard and Juan Castro was unable to capably fill in, the then 32-year-old stepped up to the challenge and posted career high numbers across the board.
However, this year is a different story. Valdez was given regular playing time early in the season while Utley was out. However, he was unable to recapture the success of 2010.
So when Polanco missed a month due to injury, it was Michael Martinez who got the bulk of the playing time.
With the entire infield finally healthy, it appeared that Valdez has dropped behind Mini-Mart on the depth chart.
There is not really any need to carry two light hitting utility players, especially when one of them is fully capable of playing the outfield. Valdez appears to be the odd man out in this particular case.
1. Ben Francisco
After a torrid Spring Training, Ben Francisco entered the 2011 season as the everyday right fielder for the Phillies. Francisco got off to a quick start the first week of the season but has struggled ever since.
In late May he lost the job to top prospect Domonic Brown. Brown provided an upgraded bat over Francisco until he too lost the job to newly acquired Hunter Pence.
Meanwhile, it appears that John Mayberry Jr. has surpassed Francisco on the depth chart as well. While Mayberry is capable of playing excellent defense at all the outfield positions Francisco is only a subpar defender and pretty much restricted only to the corner outfield slots.
Francisco does still have options left so the Phils could send him down to Lehigh Valley for the remainder of the month without risking losing him. Then again, given the level of his play this season, not too many fans would mind if the Phils lost him to another team.
Given that Michael Martinez is also capable of playing the outfield, Francisco's position on this team appears tenuous at best.
Regardless of whether he gets sent down or not, he may be in his final days as a Philadelphia Phillie.