Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Dark Horse Candidates to Make Their Playoff Roster
The Philadelphia Phillies are playoff bound for the fifth consecutive season but it took the entire 162 game regular season schedule, with the final game going 13 innings, to determine their opponent. The St. Louis Cardinals will play the Phillies in the 2011 NLDS. So now it's time for the teams to complete their 25-man playoff rosters.
For this largely veteran Phillies team most of the slots will be filled with the familiar faces who have played all year but there are still some questions. Completed rosters must be filed with the Commissioner’s office Saturday morning but until then, at least two spots on the Phillies roster are up for grabs.
The latest word is that according to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, there’s a “good possibility” that the team will carry 11 pitchers (as opposed to last year’s 10) in the first round of the playoffs. With that in mind, here’s a look at the roster spots that seem locked:
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt
Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, Brad Lidge, Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick
Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schneider
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Wilson Valdez, Ross Gload
Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry, Jr., Ben Francisco
Those 23 spots seem pretty solid but what about the other two? Those roster positions will most likely be filled by another reliever and another infielder. The odds seem to change with every pitch but here are some favorites and some long shots.
Reliever Favorite: Joe Blanton
It has not been a season to remember for Joe Blanton. In fact, it’s one he’d just as soon forget. But after spending four months on the disabled list with a medial impingement in his right elbow, Blanton is now the surprise favorite to nab the final pitching spot on the playoff roster. There’s only one catch; he won’t be starting. ‘Big Joe’ will be coming out of the pen.
Just a week ago Blanton wasn’t even considered in the running for a playoff roster spot since he had missed the majority of the regular season. But his recent performance coming out of the bullpen has moved him to the top of Charlie’s list.
“I like Blanton,” Manuel said. “Actually I kind of like where he’s at right now, as far as what he’s been through. He’s going to pitch at least one more time, maybe twice this week.”
In Blanton’s four appearances since coming off the disabled list, he’s allowed just one earned run (a solo homer) in 5 innings pitched for a 1.80 ERA. In addition, he has seven strikeouts, no walks and opponents are only batting .211 against him. (That was before last night's 2-inning performance where Blanton gave up one run.)
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has also been pleasantly surprised by his fifth starter turned reliever:
“He’s definitely put himself in the mix, no question about that. A lot of the question will be his health.”
Joe Blanton, with his playoff experience and veteran arm, seems to have a leg up in the fight for a roster spot.
Reliever Long Shot: David Herndon
A coupe of weeks ago, right-handed reliever David Herndon looked like a sure thing to make the Phillies playoff roster. After all, the second-year reliever has been in the Phillies bullpen for all but a couple of weeks this season when he was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh for a short time in May.
Although he had a rocky first month, since returning form Lehigh Herndon has posted a 1.99 ERA in 33 games. During that stretch he has 35 strikeouts and 16 walks in 45 1/3 innings and opponents have hit .240 against him.
By most accounts Herndon has acquitted himself well this season, but if play-off tested Joe Blanton continues to impress, his veteran presence in the pen might force the less-experienced Herndon out.
Bench Favorite: Michael Martinez
Michael Martinez is competing with another infield reserve, Pete Orr, and recently acquired outfielder/first baseman John Bowker for the final bench slot on the Phillies 2011 playoff roster and he is currently the odds on favorite to win it. The 28-year old utility infielder has been on the Phillies major league roster all season as a Rule 5 pick and he is more versatile than either Orr or Bowker.
Martinez plays shortstop, second and third base and even center field on occasion and he has played them all for the Phillies this season. He’s a switch hitter who can also be used to pinch run. He has logged a lot of innings this year and despite his .199 batting average he has gotten some big hits and played the field more than adequately when called upon. The Phillies carried Martinez all season long as a Rule 5 pick and it seems more than likely they’ll carry him a bit longer.
Bench Long Shot: Pete Orr
Pete Orr may be most remembered for his run-in with a Polish sausage during the sausage race at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. But Orr also filled in admirably for the Phillies when they unexpectedly found themselves minus Chase Utley for a good chunk of the season’s first half. With the additional injuries to Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco, Pete Orr helped the Phillies to survive (and thrive) during long stretches without most of their All-Star infield in place
But now with a healthy Utley and Wilson Valdez and possibly Michael Martinez already on the playoff roster, the Phillies don’t have a need for yet another infielder. An injury could change that, of course, but as of now, it doesn’t look like Orr will find a place on the playoff roster, at least for the first round.
As for John Bowker, by the way, he has not had a hit since joining the Phillies on August 31st (to make him eligible for the post season.) In 12 games he has 13 at bats and seven strikeouts. It would seem that Mr. Bowker’s short tenure with the team has ended.
Dark Horses: Domonic Brown, Joe Savory, Justin De Fratus
For the most part the Phillies playoff roster seems set. But in baseball,as in life, sometimes the unexpected happens forcing changes to even the best laid plans, or in this case playoff rosters.
Outfielder Domonic Brown and relievers Joe Savory and Justin De Fratus will all be sent to Clearwater, Florida when the regular season ends but not to hit the beach! They will take part in Florida Instructional League play in order to stay sharp in case of injuries
For Brown, this has not been the season he was hoping for. Going into Spring Training he was considered the favorite to get the Phillies starting right field job. But a broken hand slowed his progress and with his offensive numbers slipping, the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence at the trade deadline. With Pence playing everyday in right field, Brown was sent back to triple-A where he has struggled mightily. Perhaps not making the playoff roster is a fitting ending to an unsatisfying year for the 24-year old. But the Phillies still believe in him and hopefully he can find some comfort in the oft-repeated baseball mantra: “Wait ‘til next year.”
Joe Savery, the starting pitcher-turned first baseman-turned reliever, will stay ready because he is a lefty and the only other lefty the Phillies have in the bullpen is Antonio Bastardo and we’ve all heard about his September struggles. While Savery has had success in his brief stint with the Phillies, retiring eight of the nine batters he has faced, time was not on his side. He just didn’t have enough of it to make a strong post season bid. But he will continue to stay sharp in case he is needed for a later round playoff roster and he’ll hope to have more time next year in Spring Training to show his stuff.
Justin De Fratus is a right-handed reliever who performed well in Triple-A this season but, like Savery, just hasn’t had enough time at the big league level yet to be a serious contender for a playoff spot. He will also stay ready in case of injury and the 23-year old will hope to impress in Spring Training next year.
So take Michael Martinez and Joe Blanton, add them to the 23 players seemingly already on the Phillies roster and you have my best guess as to who will play and who will go home as the playoffs get set to start. But hey, there are still two more days until the final rosters are due and as the last day of the season proved once again, in baseball,
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
You sure got that right, Yogi!