Goin' Up North
In honor of Opening Day (capitalized for importance), Deadspin is running a series on 4 things you don't know about each team in MLB. Today just happens to be Phillies day on the site. Cast your vote for most painful stat below: is it the 10,000 losses or the 97 -year World Series championship drought from 1883 to 1980.
Well, Gavin Floyd has done. He's gotten basically the entire cadre of Phillies watchers -- media and bloggers alike -- on his side to begin the season on the opening day roster. A million to one shot you say? A miracle, you theorize? Neither. All it took was exactly three good spring training starts. It took 15 innings. Suddenly, the prospect many love to doubt is the team's #4 or #5 hurler.
Wouldn't it be great if it were true?
Unfortunately, a few things stand in Floyd's way, at least initally. First and foremost, The Phils have exactly five starters ready to begin the season: Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cory Lidle, Ryan Madson, and Ryan Franklin. Remember that rotation; chances are, it's going to change by mid-season. However, for now, that is exactly what it should be. Floyd, along with Robinson Tejeda, should go north on Opening Day and continue going north, past the Delaware Valley, into the Poconos. Here's why:
For the first time in God knows how long, it could be the Phils' who are playing the depth card on the mound in the division as opposed to the Braves. Laughing yet? Think about it. This year, with a handful of decent prospects at both AAA and AA, the club would do well to get the most out of it's more experienced arms (Lieber, Lidle, Franklin) before they potential breakdown or stink up the joint by mid-season. Last year, Lieber was terrible in mid-season, while Lidle and Padilla both spent time on the DL or away from the club for "personal reasons." Franklin, while a below average pitcher, is durable and throwing well early on. Likewise, Ricardo Rodriguez, the de facto long man on the staff is a converted starter projected out of the pen. While neither of these pitchers are great, they could have some use in the big picture. They are capable of having good games and are going to be paid. Why not try to maximize them as assets? What sense does it make to throw them in the fire now? Better options avaialble, you say? Well, consider the next point.
A 162-game season is a long race for which the team will need the horses. How nice would it be to have some extra arms to throw into the mix as the season progresses and the stretch run begins. Remember Eude Brito's great start against the Braves at home last year? Tejeda's stretch of shaky but quality starts in mid-season. Neither of those were going to be duplicaqted through a full season. But used in moderation, these contributions were key. Until pitchers like Floyd, Tejeda, and Brito finetune their offerings, they should be viewed and utilized as essential role players. As fallback options, they should only be promoted to full-time status as actual fallback options. Releasing Ric-Rod or moving Franklin to the pen (where he will undoubtedly be less happy and possibly even less effective as a guy with no one good pitch) would leave the club with no recourse should plans fall flat. Bad move in general. Really bad move this early.
It hasn't been given much attention, but there has got to be a very realistic skepticism about how much Ryan Madson can give a team as a starter. By all accounts his spring has been encouraging. He seems to have the head and the arms to be a quality starter. But he hasn't started full-time since 2004 and that was at AAA ball. What are the chances that he lasts a full season and throws 180 innings in his first year as as starter? Maybe 50/50? This means that there WILL be opportunities to the next in line throughout the season. Would it kill the club to have a few hungry wannabes ready to go a step down from the show? How many times have we seen the Braves call up "nobodys" who contribute down the stretch?
The prospects, Floyd in particular, but Tejeda as well, need to demonstrate sustained success and control before they should be called on to be major contributors again. While the franchise has also operated in a methodical fashion in the area of player development (and "methodical" might even be an understatement), in this case, it's the right thing to do. Keep those arms warm. Be ready to go soon.
Not yet, though.