Baseball fans in Clearwater will have to be content with seeing the Gulf Coast League Phillies in the playoffs this season. The Clearwater Threshers lost to rival Dunedin Saturday night, eliminating them from the postseason. While it was a big disappointment for fans and players in Clearwater, it could turn out to be good news for some of the players and for fans in Reading and Lehigh Valley.
The IronPigs and Fightins are headed to the postseason, Lehigh Valley as a wild card and Reading as a division champion. The bad news there, is that the Phillies had already tapped into the Lehigh Valley roster to fill holes created by injuries and then went a little deeper to add some help when rosters expanded on September 1st. Lehigh Valley's roster currently stands two short of the International League maximum of 25, while Reading is at the maximum 25.
Philadelphia grabbed right-hander Colton Murray, lefty Patrick Schuster and outfielder/first baseman Darin Ruf from Lehigh Valley on Friday. Reading reliever Jimmy Cordero moved up to Lehigh Valley to fill one hole and on Saturday, the Fightins got pitcher Alec Asher to fill their open roster spot.
With Clearwater not having a postseason, their roster is ripe for the taking, which would allow Reading to add some players and send some current players upstream to the IronPigs.
With relievers being the hot commodity, a guy like Matt Hockenberry could get the call to move from Clearwater to Reading. Hockenberry did pitch in three games with the Fightins this season and amassed an ERA of 5.79 in the process. Actually, Hockenberry pitched in one game for Reading in May, another in June and a third in July. The only rough outing was his last one in July when he allowed three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings of work. In his first two outings, Hockenberry threw three shutout innings, giving up one hit and two walks. May's outing saw him go two perfect innings for the Fightins.
Will Morris pitched in two games with Reading this season - one of them a start - and one last season. He's got a combined 5.06 ERA in the three appearances. Again, much of the damage came as a result of one outing, back on May 29th of this season, when Morris allowed four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. In his two other appearances, he has a combined seven innings pitched, having allowed just two earned runs for an ERA of 2.57 in one relief appearance and one start. Morris' last six games were all starts for Clearwater.
Another option might be Ulises Joaquin, who opened the season with the Fightins and pitched in six games for Reading this season, but posted a 9.45 ERA. Unlike Hockenberry and Morris, Joaquin had an overall tougher time with the Fightins, giving up runs in four of his six outings, including four earned runs over his final 1 2/3 innings. With more seasoning at the High-A level, perhaps Joaquin is ready for another shot at Double-A hitters.
Finally, newcomer Tommy Bergjans, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade, has pitched in 25 games at the High-A level this season - 21 of them as a starter - and could be in line for a late season move to Reading.
If Reading does get bullpen help, it could be so that they can shuttle a reliever to Lehigh Valley. While Miguel Nunez may be the next in line for a promotion, it's unlikely that the Phillies would jettison Reading's closer, who has saved 17 games in 19 chances, for the playoffs.
Victor Arano, who will pitch in the Arizona Fall League, has put together a strong season, but only 10 of his 45 relief appearances have come at the Double-A level, so a move to the IronPigs might be a little premature. Joey DeNato has only pitched in five games with Reading, spending most of the season with Clearwater, but he did make three relief appearances with Lehigh Valley last season, pitching to a 7.71 ERA. DeNato allowed just one earned run over his first 3 1/3 innings with the 'Pigs, but was then bombed for three earned runs in his final outing at Triple-A, pitching 1 1/3 innings.
Alexis Rivero (1-0, 4.02) hasn't exactly been lights out for Reading, but could be another possible promotion candidate.
The Phillies are shutting down starter Vincent Velasquez for the season, so they could be looking to grab another arm from Lehigh Valley. Philadelphia will need another starter for Thursday. Nick Pivetta would fit perfectly into the schedule for the Phillies, but they're limiting his innings, as they are with Ben Lively, so both are likely to stay at Lehigh Valley, making either David Buchanan or Phil Klein the likely candidates to be added to the Phillies rotation for the final month.
Asher comes off his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy on Thursday and he pitched Saturday night for Reading, putting him in line for a potential trip to Philadelphia for the rest of the month. If not, he could take over at Lehigh Valley for either Buchanan or Klein, but a move to the majors would seem to make sense. Asher's addition to Reading gave the Fightins six starters, so losing him wouldn't affect their rotation for the postseason.
As for a bat to replace Ruf at Lehigh Valley, there are plenty of options at Reading. The new franchise home run king, Dylan Cozens could go to Lehigh Valley, as could first baseman Rhys Hoskins. Christian Marrero and Jake Fox both have experience at Triple-A and could finish up there.
If Hoskins were to become a 'Pig, Kyle Martin could take over at first base for Reading once Clearwater's season is finished. Carlos Tocci, or more likely, Jiandido Tromp could head from Clearwater to Reading.