Could Madson and Utley Equal Walk and Stocker?

In 1980, Bob Walk came to the majors and helped to carry the Phillies through the month of September, winning all five of his starts. In 1993, Kevin Stocker ignited the team and helped push the Phillies to the World Series. Could we see a little of both players come to Philadelphia and help push the Phillies to the postseason? Ryan Madson and Chase Utley are waiting in the wings to play their part in Phillies history.

It seemed improbable. To some, it seemed desparate. A rookie pitcher - with the improbable last name of Walk - winning his first five major league starts just when the Phillies needed them the most. Bob Walk was ready to step up to the challenge and seemed perfectly fitted to what the Phillies needed him to be. Not only was Walk a mainstay through the month of September, but he was the starting pitcher in Game One of the World Series.

Flash forward to 1993 and the "unusual" group of Phillies that were fighting their way through the season. A clean cut kid came to Philly, having worked his way through the Phillies minor league system, and took over at shortstop. His impact was amazing. John Kruk recently admitted "we don't get to the World Series if not for Kevin Stocker." Big words, considering the other players who were assembled on that team.

This season, the Phillies are in need of a fifth starter and a spark to their team. Hmmm, any ideas?

Ryan Madson is a promising, up-and-coming star who figures to fight for a spot in the Phillies rotation next season, if he's not guaranteed one. The right-hander has had a great minor league career and by most accounts is certainly ready for the majors. The question is, would he be any worse than Brandon Duckworth?

Nobody doubts Madson's ability. He has the talent. He has the major league stuff. It is all there. The question is his psyche. Is Ryan Madson emotionally strong enough to come into a major league pennant race? Can he handle being the 2003 version of Bob Walk?

Most of the "experts" that know Madson agree that he can handle the pressure. Yes, it has to be an issue and has to be considered. Baseball history is full of young players who came into pressure situations, failed miserably and were never able to become the players that everybody figured them to be. Caution is needed. Relying on the opinions of people like Scranton manager Marc Bombard and pitching coach Mike Mason is also needed.

Then, there's Chase Utley. He had a brief visit with the Phillies early in the season, but the reasoning was that Utley needed to play everyday rather than sit on the bench in the Phillies dugout. Again, the "experts" agreed that Utley was basically ready for the majors, but in his case, there wasn't a starting job for him to have with the Phillies. There could be a starting job for Utley now, with David Bell still on the DL and still hurting. Placido Polanco could shift over to third base and Utley could play at second. Problem solved.

My calendar tells me that there are only a couple weeks before the minor league reinforcements arrive from the minor leagues. That means that there isn't really an argument about "rushing" Madson or Utley.

Nobody is looking for Madson or Utley to carry the Phillies and that needs to be explained to them. They're being looked at to take a job with the team and do what they can to help. Guaranteeing both players that their jobs are secure and that they're not going to be benched at the earliest sign of trouble wouldn't be out of the question. It would help their psyche and let them know that they're safe.

What are the alternatives? Keep Brandon Duckworth in the rotation? Talk about not being good for psyche. Amaury Telemaco, who is admittedly having a very solid season at AAA? Well, you would have to make room on the 40 man roster for Telemaco, so who goes? Carlos Silva? Is he a better option than either Madson or Telemaco?

One possible scenario is to send Duckworth to AAA in favor of Madson and let him work out his problems over the next couple weeks. He can come back in September and will hopefully be rejuvenated and ready to help the Phillies.

The Phillies are now trailing the Florida Marlins in the wild card race. It's not time to panic, but it is time to roll the dice a little. Sometimes, a little shaking up is all a team needs to turn things around. Eddie, start shaking!

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