Phils face plenty of questions and decisions

The rotation, the bullpen, catching, etc. They're all up for discussion and all have question marks as the Phillies try to decide whether they're buyers or sellers.

There are going to be plenty of decisions for the Phillies to make in the coming days and weeks. None of the decisions are necessarily easy ones to make, which makes them all that more interesting for fans to consider.

First, on the pitching staff, there could be a couple of changes coming soon. Carlos Zambrano threw six innings, allowing just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out seven. The question now becomes what's next for Zambrano? The Phillies could have Zambrano make another rehab start with Reading, but it's more likely that they'll bump him up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for his next start. Decision time is looming, since Big Z has a June 15th out-clause in his contract, meaning that if the Phillies don't add him to the 25-man roster by then, he can take his glove and go elsewhere. 

Another question mark is whether Zambrano would accept a spot as a long-man in the Phillies bullpen. All along, it's been assumed that he would be positioning himself for a spot in the starting rotation, but he did make 15 relief appearances with the Miami Marlins last season, going 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA. With the Phillies having all five starters pitching well and John Lannan also out on a rehab assignment, the rotation is going to become a crowded place to be very quickly. Zambrano or possibly, Tyler Cloyd (2-2, 3.68) would be the most likely candidates to take over a spot as the long-man. The Phillies likely view Jonathan Pettibone (3-1, 3.40) as too much of a commodity as a starter to put him in the bullpen and would likely have him pitch in the rotation for Lehigh Valley.

After his start at Reading, Zambrano flip-flopped on how interested he would be in pitching out of the bullpen for the Phillies. "I'm ready to help the team and do whatever they want," said Zambrano. Then, when pressed on whether he would consider working out of the bullpen, the tone changed. "I want to be a starter. I signed here to be a starter. Last year was miserable when I went to the bullpen. I didn't enjoy that; that's why I signed here."

Often times, things like this have a way of working themselves out. Point in question is what's going to happen behind the plate. Erik Kratz is second on the Phillies in home runs, but a "pop" in his knee while running out a ground ball Saturday night. The result was Kratz leaving Miller Park on crutches and winding up on the DL first thing Sunday morning, with Steven Lerud getting a middle-of-the-night wake-up call to fill a roster spot with the Phillies. The early prognostication on Kratz isn't good, so whether or not he would have usurped Carlos Ruiz as the Phillies starting catcher could well now be a mute point.

Ruiz hasn't started a rehab assignment, but it should be coming very soon and perhaps that timetable will be moved up a little because of the injury to Kratz.

One minor league question that needs to be answered is who is going to be joining the IronPigs, who are down to just one catcher at the moment. Cameron Rupp or Sebastian Valle could come up from Reading and start the dominoes falling, but the bottom line is that the Phillies are going to need somebody from somewhere. Right now, Lakewood has three catchers, so either Justin Dalles, Josh Ludy or Chace Numata could move to Clearwater, but the Threshers currently have just two catchers on their roster and one is Tommy Joseph who is working his way back from a concussion. That question should have a pretty quick answer, since John Suomi as the only catcher on a Triple-A roster isn't anything near an ideal situation.

Who they promote could be very telling. Cameron Rupp is quietly becoming somewhat of a golden boy in the organization and could be a tempting move, but Sebastian Valle has started to hit the ball lately at Reading, to put himself back in the good graces of the Phillies. Possible too that Justin Dalles, who is sort of a roaming catcher in the organization this season, could be dispatched to Lehigh Valley to at least keep the roster spot warm until everything can be straightened out.

Delmon Young presents another question mark, with an answer due in another 40 days. For every 40 days that Young is on the Phillies roster, he gets an extra $100,000. He got his first installment yesterday. If Darin Ruf were to pick up the pace at Lehigh Valley, it would make the question of whether or not to stick with Young that much more intriguing. Right now though, Ruf is hitting .256 for the IronPigs and hasn't homered in 102 at-bats. There's no compelling reason to bring him up to the majors right now, unless you simply want to speculate that he's going to hit once he reaches Philadelphia or unless you want to save the extra 100-large that Young is going to cost you. For now though, Ruf is simply going to have to prove he can hit and get some heat into his bat before the Phillies give him any real consideration. For what it's worth, he's playing well in left field, so defense isn't holding him back.

And none of these questions really call into question the biggest issue of of all; are the Phillies going to be buyers, sellers or stand-patters at the trade deadline?



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