MLB Philadelphia Phillies

2014 Projected Starting Rotation for Philadelphia Phillies

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Philadelphia Phillies: 2014 Projected Starting Rotation

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In the old days, before this version of the Atlanta Braves even existed, the pitching slogan for the then Milwaukee Braves was: “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.”

Even though neither Cliff Lee nor Cole Hamels rhymes with rain, the pair can be compared to Milwaukee’s best pitching duo of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. Therein lies the challenge for the Philadelphia Phillies pitching rotation this season. How the team fills in behind them will go a long way toward determining whether the Phillies can open a window of contention that has been jammed for the past two seasons.

One look at the four teams in the MLB championship series shows how far the Phillies have to go to even compete for a Wild Card spot. All four teams have outstanding pitchers, but all four teams also have solid rotation depth one through five.

The Phillies have some intriguing arms in the system so far, but to really upgrade the pitching they might have to go outside the system for a starter and force a prospect up the ladder. In the days of the pitch count, that’s an absolute must. The Phillies found themselves scrambling for bullpen starts twice in the final week of the season because they didn’t have any major-league ready arms in the farm system. GM Ruben Amaro promised that won’t happen next year.

Hamels and Lee cannot do what Spahn and Sain did in a remarkable 12-day (not game) stretch during the 1948 season. From Sept. 6 through Sept. 18, the two had eight complete-game wins. Nobody did pitch counts back then or even cared.

With that in mind, the projected Phils’ starting rotation if nothing else happens looks like this:

Mike Gibson is a Phillies writer for Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

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Gonzalez, 26, is good. We just don't know how good yet, but an indication came when he was on the mound and the winning pitcher when the Cuban National Team clinched the 2011 World Baseball Championship. He's already penciled in as a starter next year and could rise to No. 3 in the rotation. Right now, we'll conservatively put him at No. 5.

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4. Jonathan Pettibone

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Pettibone, 23, started 18 games for the Phillies this season with a 5-4 record and a 4.04 ERA. He needs to lower the ERA, but if he can stay above .500 he will be an effective starter at No. 4 for the team.

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3. Kyle Kendrick

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Amaro said he would almost certainly extend an offer to arbitration-eligible Kendrick, 29, and Kendrick will almost certainly accept it considering he was the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the staff this season, winning eight of his first nine decisions and finishing with a 10-13 record and 4.70 ERA in 30 starts. At this point, he's an effective innings-eater and not much else.

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2. Cole Hamels

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After the alarm of a bad start, Hamels, 30, showed signs of returning to his 2008 form with a solid second half of the season. The Phillies can only hope that the 2014 Hamels will be the one they got from July through September this season. After opening with a 4-12 mark, Hamels finished his season at 8-14 and steadily brought his ERA down to 3.60 in 220 innings pitched.

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1. Cliff Lee

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The Phillies briefly entertained thoughts of trading Lee at the July 31 deadline but could not pry a top-of-the-line prospect that they wanted. That move might turn out to be beneficial for the 2014 team because Lee was truly the team's only dependable wire-to-wire starter, pitching two more innings (222) than Hamels and flipping the Hamels' record by going 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA.