In a development that has surprised maybe three people, the Philadelphia Phillies‘ starting rotation has already become a problem area for the team in Spring Training.
Their 30-year-old ace Cole Hamels, he with the $144 million record setting contract, was supposedly well on his way to returning to the rotation and quite possibly even starting on Opening Day. However, word came out earlier this week that Hamels had suffered a setback. When asked to speak on the subject, the 2008 World Series MVP stated that while he only threw 35 pitches in a bullpen session, his arm felt like he had just thrown 1,000.
This kind of Spring Training news is similar to what we had heard last season with Roy Halladay, the season before with Ryan Howard, and the past three Spring Trainings about Chase Utley. Everything was optimistic heading into Spring Training, yet each of those players either missed significant time, underperformed or both.
So now with the possibility that Hamels will miss significant time due to his arm fatigue, or be ineffective when he can pitch, the team will rely on the arms of Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett. Not a bad duo, despite their age. Burnett took the mound in today’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. In the wake of the Hamels news, the Phillies need him desperately to step up and perform as he had the past two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Instead, he gave up six earned runs on seven hits and even hit two batters in only three innings. One outing does not a spring make, but this was not encouraging news when we were in need of some.
How about the back end of the rotation? Kyle Kendrick has given up four earned runs in five innings and has an ERA above seven. Roberto Hernandez has been pedestrian, as is his reputation. Even Lee, who now has more pressure as a starter than any other time in his tenure in red pinstripes, has had a relatively mediocre spring. When asked about who might fill Hamels’ spot in the rotation while he is injured, manager Ryne Sandberg noted that “[Sean] O’Sullivan is a guy.”
What exactly are we looking at then? Lee, the imploding Burnett and Kendrick, the uninspiring Hernandez … and some guy. From the sounds of it, that guy could be interchangeable between O’Sullivan, Jeff Manship and Dave Buchanan. Notably, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is not on that list of possible replacements.