The Phillies have been having trouble keeping their starting pitching candidates healthy thus far in Spring Training, and that means only one thing: They’re gonna need to take guys from the IronPigs.
Sure, they say Cole Hamels isn’t really injured, just fatigued. And everyone puts on a smiley face and points out that he doesn’t have any pain and no MRI has been scheduled. Meanwhile, he’s not going to be throwing any time soon, and we have no idea when–or if–he’ll return to the Phillies. We might as well be waiting for Godot over here. I wish him luck, but I’m not counting on him anytime soon.
Two younger options for the Phillies, Jon Pettibone and Ethan Martin, are also having shoulder difficulties. Pettibone was given a cortisone injections and a week of rest, and reported a good throwing session the other day. But he’s behind schedule. Ethan Martin was removed from the game with shoulder capsule inflammation and triceps tendonitis last week, with no schedule to return. Recall that Adam Morgan had shoulder difficulty last season after a really good start in Allentown, but ended up in the surgeon’s office this off-season after attempts at rest and therapy failed. Shoulders are tricky–and painful.
Assuming the Phillies aren’t going to go shopping for a free agent pitcher such as Ervin Santana, their choices are likely to be guys in the MLB camp right now:
- David Buchanan
- Sean O’Sullivan
- Jeff Manship
- Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
- BJ Rosenberg
- Jesse Biddle
Buchanan pitched well for the IronPigs down the stretch last season following a solid if unspectacular start to the season in Reading. It was enough to get him to MLB camp. He’s done well so far, and earned high praise. He pitches again today, with the pressure mounting, I’m sure: Facing Verlander with the knowledge that an MLB spot is on the line.
O’Sullivan and Manship are AAA veterans with MLB experience. I had both slotted for spots in the IronPigs rotation, but both have pitched well at the big camp and have a shot at a spot in the Phillies’ rotation.
Gonzalez, the so-called “International Man of Mystery” didn’t look ready for Prime Time in his first outing. He’s pitching again today I think, but some work needs to be done. It bears watching, but he’s just as likely to be with Reading at this juncture, than the Phillies. He could be an IronPig.
BJ Rosenberg has earned high praise for his pitching thus far and is being stretched out as a possible starter or “long man.” I think that trend is only likely to continue at this point. He’s had some experience with the big club.
Jesse Biddle is the youngster, top prospect guy. While his stats overall did not look that impressive in Reading last season, he was ill part of the time and did have some dominant outings. I saw him pitch to a 1-0 loss in person one evening. The Phillies may not want to start the “arbitration clock” on young Mr. Biddle just yet. And, some AAA seasoning should help him.
There are other options–for the IronPigs–in Minor League Camp:
- Mario Hollands
- Chris Bootcheck
- Greg Smith
- Barry Enright
Hollands earned a trip to MLB camp, but I don’t think he has a realistic chance to stick right away. He may be a relief pitcher eventually, but has been used as a starter as well. Chris Bootcheck started 23 games for the IronRail Champion RailRiders in 2013, but has worked as a reliever–even closer–in the past. Greg Smith was a stalwart starter for the IronPigs last summer; the lefty returns and should eat innings and keep the IronPigs in games. Veteran Barry Enright, fresh off an MVP performance in the Mexican Winter League, started 22 games in AAA and 2 in the Majors last year for the Angels.
- Hector Neris
- Michael Nesseth
- Austin Wright
Nesseth had some time with the IronPigs last season–even started a game if I recall. These guys plus Brody Colvin have a chance to move up if the IronPigs are thin.
So despite the need for more starters on the MLB level, I feel like we still have candidates to put together a competitive AAA rotation to start the season. If guys get healthy, the rotation could get even better. It’s not as bad as I first thought..