Pedro Martinez anyone?

pedroJamie Moyer turned in a quality start on Wednesday night, which is no small feat.  After all, heading into that game nearly every other batter reached base against the 46-year old lefty this month. Moreover, that one ugly inning reared its head again for Joe Blanton on Thursday afternoon.

Just when it looked as if the big right-hander had turned the proverbial corner, up came a couple of bloop hits and a three-run homer to bite Joe in the rear. Just like that and a five-spot was stuck on the board.

Cole Hamels? Yeah, he looks like he’s back to form. And Brett Myers? Sometimes what you see is what you get.

So it goes that if the Phillies are going to parade down Broad Street for a second straight year, they are going to have to get the pitching together. After all, that’s how they did it last year. Sometimes, though, that’s easier said than done. Every team wants pitching and because the quality stuff is spread so thin, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. might have to get creative if he wants to bolster up the worst rotation in the Majors.

How creative? We’re not sure. But how is this for an idea…

Pedro Martinez.

Yeah, that’s right… why not take a flyer on Pedro Martinez?

Look, we know all about it. Pedro is 37, he gets hurt a lot and his best days are clearly in the past. Last season for the Mets, Pedro went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts – clearly the worst season of his big league career and the third season in a row where he missed a significant portion of the season because of injuries.

After going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA in 2005, Martinez went 17-15 with a 4.74 ERA in 48 starts in three combined seasons. When his contract ended after the Mets choked away another September, they just let him walk away – and so did everyone else for that matter.

But really, Pedro’s worst season ever is still significantly better than what Moyer, Blanton and Chan Ho Park have done this year and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. gave the 46-year-old lefty a two-year deal. It would take significantly less – like a prorated deal for the rest of the season – to bring Martinez on board.

Better yet, if he doesn’t pitch well the Phillies can always say, “Adios.” No harm, no foul.

eatonThat might not be the Phillies style though. Apparently going after someone like Martinez might be thinking waaaaaaaay out of the box. Or was it? Last spring the Phillies took a chance on veteran Kris Benson and when it was clear he couldn’t pitch, they cut him loose. Since then Benson signed on with Texas where he has appeared in four games and has a 7.80 ERA…

That’s the same ballpark as Moyer and Blanton.

Plus, when ex-GM Pat Gillick knew he wouldn’t be able to sign Randy Wolf, he panicked and gave a three-year deal to Adam Eaton.

Remember how well that turned out? Yeah, well it still wasn’t as bad as Moyer, Blanton and Park have been this season.

Yes, the plan is for the Phillies’ staff to pitch better and based on past performance that’s not out of the realm of possibility. Still, what if those guys don’t turn it around? What then? It just seems silly not to take a shot on someone like Pedro Martinez when bigger projects like Eaton, Park and Benson were signed up with seemingly not a second thought.

Vote for Pedro? Shoot, how bad could it be?

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Note: We’re going to be away from the ballpark for a couple of days while my wife recovers from an appendectomy and pneumonia. As soon as the ol’ girl gets her mojo back, we’ll be back at the ballpark.

Until then… hospital food!

Adam Eaton graphic from The Baltimore Sun

End of the line?

moyerJamie Moyer pitches for the Phillies tonight, which is kind of a big deal. Sure, he’s going for career win No. 250, but more than that, he really, really, really needs to pitch well.

You know, for a change.

Moyer hasn’t been very good this season. The 8.15 ERA and opponents’ .344 batting average against him is part of it, but most telling are the last three starts the 46-year-old lefty has turned in during May. In those three starts Moyer has given up 22 hits, 19 runs, six homers and seven walks in just 12 1/3 innings.

Yet Moyer isn’t in jeopardy of being moved out of the Phillies’ rotation. That already happened yesterday when Chan Ho Park was shifted to the bullpen and lefty J.A. Happ slid into the vacant spot, and Park hasn’t been nearly as bad as Moyer.

Then again, Moyer has had rough patches before. In fact, there was a four-start jag in 2005 (April 30-to-May 18) where he gave up 23 runs and nine walks in 13 2/3 innings. The lefty rebounded from that rough patch to finish the season at 13-7 with 200 innings

But Moyer wasn’t 46 then and he hadn’t just finished pitching deep into October for the first time ever. He also hadn’t just signed a two-year deal in which he held out for more money.

Yes, Moyer is getting $13 million in base salary with incentives that could take the worth of the deal to $20 million. He also will get $250,000 each for 150, 160, 170, 180 and 190 innings pitched. In 2010 the base salary can reach $4.5 million and he will receive $250,000 each for 150 innings and 23 starts, and $500,000 each for 160, 170, 180 and 190 innings, and 25, 27, 29 and 31 starts.

Moreover, Moyer has a no-trade clause in which he can block deals to six teams, but no more than four in a specific league.

There’s no such clause for what happens if Moyer gets moved out of the rotation or pitches poorly.

Still, not a bad deal for a 46-year-old lefty with a fastball that can’t break glass and a three-game stretch in which opponents are hitting .400 off him with an on-base percentage near .500.

Moyer’s age was “a concern” as general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted when announcing the signing, but he said the team wanted to show a “commitment” to the veteran pitcher.

Make that a veteran pitcher with no versatility, a two-year deal and a no-trade clause.

Of course all this goes away if Moyer pitches well again…

Or retires.

Stuck with ’em

Phillies Mets BaseballBaseball guys like to trot out the clichés when there are no words or reasonable ways to describe the action on the field. Lately, the one most used by the Phillies has been “That’s baseball,” which has replaced, “It is what it is,” as the cliché de guerre.

Those phrases have been reserved for those hard hit balls from Jimmy Rollins that found gloves instead of turf as well as the opposite – when the balls hit off the Phillies’ pitchers find the grass (or the stands) rather than mitts.

Crazy thing that baseball.

Nevertheless, as the first significant landmark of the long season approaches (Memorial Day), there have been some constant themes of the season that we just can’t shake. For instance, there is Rollins and his streakiness, Raul Ibanez and his hotness, Cole Hamels and his healthiness and, of course, the starting pitchers and their ineffectiveness.

Here it comes in black and white:

The Phillies enter tonight’s game in Cincinnati with a 6.35 starter’s ERA. Only Boston and Baltimore in the hitting-happy American League are even within shouting distance of the Phillies’ starters with a 5.76 ERA.

Uglier? The Phillies’ starters have an ERA almost two runs higher than the league average, while the opposition is hitting .308 against them (yes, that’s the worst in baseball) while reaching base at a .376 clip.

Again, it’s the worst in baseball.

Here’s one more thing about the starters and their awful numbers… the starter’s OPS is a robust .921, which kind of makes it seem like they face Alfonso Soriano with every hitter.

Get an OPS of .921 for a career and get ready for a ceremony in Cooperstown.

Here’s the amazing part – the Phillies are tied for first place in the NL East. In other words, sometimes a good offense is the best defense. However, the Phillies can’t expect this to keep up because it never does. At some point they will need to pitch well and pitch well consistently.

Yes, duh.

Along with the catchphrases like, “That’s baseball,” and, “It is what it is,” manager Charlie Manuel has brought out the time-tested classic, “These are the guys we have.” That might very well be code for, “Hey Ruben, get us some help.”

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s line about the team needing to perform better is code for, “I’m trying, but good pitchers cost a lot.”

The worst of the bunch are Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park. Currently, Blanton has the sixth-worst ERA in the Majors at 6.86 and if Moyer had been able to accumulate enough innings in his seven starts, his 8.15 ERA would be the worst.

Think about this for a second – a 46-year old pitcher going just 35 innings in seven starts for a 8.15 ERA and a 1.042 OPS against… yeah, Steve Carlton wasn’t even close to being that bad when the Phillies waived him in 1986 at age 41.

In the short-term, Moyer and Blanton aren’t going anywhere. In fact, Moyer has another season left on his contract. When asked if a move to the bullpen were possible for Moyer, pitching coach Rich Dubee said, flatly, “No.”

If only Moyer could face the Marlins every time out…

The only option for now is for lefty J.A. Happ to take over a spot in the rotation for Park. Of course Park just lasted four outs in Sunday’s start against the Nationals directly on the heels of back-to-back strong outings in which he gave up just two runs and eight hits in 12 innings. But of the underperforming trio, Park is the only pitcher with versatility.

Besides, Memorial Day is approaching. Since 1968, more than half of the teams in first place at that first signpost go on to win the division.

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  • Jason Kendall of Milwaukee got the 2,000th hit of his career last night. He only needs 48 more to tie Johnny Bench… Jason Kendall gets more hits in his career than Johnny Bench? How does that happen?
  • The Nationals’ Cristian Guzman is leading the National League with a .385 batting average, but for the first 37 games of the season his batting average and on-base percentage were the same. Yes, that’s right, Guzman had not walked once. That changed on Monday night when he got a free pass in the fifth inning of the Nats’ 12-7 loss to Pittsburgh.
  • On Sunday Brad Lidge broke his streak of six games of allowing at least one run. During his streak the Phillies’ closer had one save, and allowed 11 hits and nine runs in six innings.

On another note, Geoff Geary, one of the pitchers Lidge was traded from Houston for, has had streaks of five and four consecutive games in which he allowed at least one run.

Check it out.

Early September for the Mets?

alg_mets-paper-bagsAccording to reports, the battle for the fifth-starting position in the Phillies rotation has been pretty tight. That’s a good thing considering there really isn’t anything else going on at Camp WFC in Clearwater, Fla. this spring. Sure, John Mayberry Jr. is making a strong case to earn a spot on the 25-man roster, and the Phillies might need someone to replace Pedro Feliz and/or Chase Utley if the injuries aren’t healed come Opening Night.

But for the most part the only bit of intrigue comes from a bunch of guys hoping to get into about 32 games this season.

Veteran Chan Ho Park and lefty J.A. Happ are making strong cases to wrest the spot away from de facto leader Kyle Kendrick. In fact, no member of the trio vying for the only available opening in the starting rotation has allowed more than two runs all spring. Better yet, neither Park, Happ nor Kendrick has issued a walk all spring, while the lefty has eight strikeouts in eight innings pitched, while Park has five whiffs in seven innings pitched.

Kendrick has appeared in just one spring game so far, allowing a run and four hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Dark horse candidate Carlos Carrasco has pitched five innings in two outings,  but seems headed to Triple-A to start the season.

But while the battle for last starting spot for the Phillies’ rotation has been a veritable battle royale, it has been the same on the other side of Florida where the New York Mets train.

Like the Phillies, the Mets also have an open competition for one spot in the rotation. And like the Phillies, three pitchers – Livan Hernandez, Tim Redding and ex-Phillie Freddy Garcia – are fighting it out in Grapefruit League action.

But that’s where the comparison ends. On the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Phillies’ trio has been pitching well and will give manager Charlie Manuel a few sleepless nights trying to figure out who the man will be.

But on the Atlantic Coast, the Mets’ battle hasn’t been nearly as intense. According to a story in The New York Times, the notion that the Mets could go outside of camp and sign a free agent (Pedro Martinez?) to take that spot is fair for speculation.

Quite telling is that despite the fact that Garcia has an ERA well over 20 runs per nine innings, Redding has been the hardest hit thus far. In an exhibition against the University of Michigan, Redding allowed five hits and five runs, including back-to-back homers, before being pulled with one out in the third inning.

Just think how rough it would have been if he was facing Ohio State.

Now to make matters worse, ace lefty Johan Santana has dealt with a little arm trouble through the early part of the spring.

Man, it seems as if it’s September already for the Mets.