Hey! CD…On Vicente Padilla, Wild Card and More

<b><i>Hey! CD</b></i> is a weekly Q&A column by California Dreamin, a Phillie die-hard from SoCal. Known as CD to baseball friends, he is a favorite source of information by Phillie fans, curious about his unique perspective of various Phillie baseball issues & events. Have fun reading!

Q: On Yahoo-Philllies Site, from Bob Infante

Hey! CD, I read your columns thru my Yahoo web site. If it stops how can I get your column?

CD says...
Thanks for the question, Bob, I have been asked this before. Apparently on occasion, the articles in my column Connect the Dots gets cut off in mid article on the Yahoo site, whether because of space constraints or other problems. If you wish to read the columns uninterrupted, just log on to www.PhillyBasebalNews.com. This is my home site and the place for whence my syndication begins. You will also have access to my archive articles if you ever wish to read them. Hope this helps.

Q: On Vicente Padilla as a Potential Closer, from David, Philadelphia

Hey! CD, what do you think about Vicente Padilla as a potential closer for the Phillies?

CD says...
David, there is no subject I am asked about more than the question of who I think will be the Phils next closer. Your question about Padilla as a potential closer is an interesting one. As you are probably aware, Padilla came to the Phils from Arizona as a reliever. In fact, he was used exclusively as a reliever early in his career as a D'back and as a Phillie. However, midway through the 2001 season he was switched to a starter at Scranton Wilkes-Barre with great results, to the tune of an 8-0 record. Last year he made the NL All-Star team as a starter and this year he has 11 wins already as a starter. Because of this, I subscribe to the old saying… "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Padilla, who often has first inning problems, would make for a more nerve-wracking bullpen closer than Jose Mesa has. I think Padilla belongs in the starting rotation, and will stay there.

By the way, to answer the question about who I think our next closer is…I believe he is currently now pitching for another team. I do believe we will have a new closer next year and that whoever it is, it will be someone that Joe Kerrigan is familiar with and may have even worked with. Several possibilities include Ugueth Urbina in Florida, Billy Wagner in Houston (due to contract issues) or possibly, Rod Beck in San Diego. I do not believe that the 2004 closer is currently on the Phils nor do I think he is in the farm system. This may well be GM Ed Wade's single biggest quest in the offseason. Stay tuned!

Q: On the Wild Card Contenders, from Craig

Hey! CD, If any one of the wildcard contenders gets hot for a couple of weeks, the Phils go home at the end of next month. Which of the five or six serious contenders for the wild card should we fear the most?

CD says...
Actually, Craig, the way the Phillies are playing on this road trip I think the team they need to fear the most is themselves. To be honest, they do not have the look of a playoff team right now. However, for the sake of argument, lets assume they survive this road trip in the wild card lead and enter September as the leaders. I believe that Florida presents the biggest challenge for three reasons.

Number one, they are young and having fun so they are the most oblivious to pressure and fatigue. Anything they do this year is a bonus and they are confident and talented, a very dangerous combination.

Number two, they play us six more times - three at home and three away - and this gives them a potential two game swing anytime they play us. This can be huge… witness how quickly they made up ground when they beat us six straight times in July.

Finally, number three, they have had incredible success with us to the tune of eight straight victories. They know they can beat us and seem to have the kind of team that gives the Phils fits. They have a very dangerous lineup that runs well, is well coached and has a strong bullpen. I do not expect the Marlins to go away.

After the Marlins, I would rate the D'backs as another potential threat because of their veteran look and the solid trio of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Brandon Webb. They are also managed very well by Bob Brenly.

After these two, the next potential threat might be the Dodgers because of their pitching or the Cardinals, because they are the Cardinals.

However, I do not expect the wild card to come out of the NL Central, the Cubs, Astros and Cards will be busy knocking each other off in September. So, if I had to handicap it would be Marlins, D'backs, Dodgers, Cardinals and Cubs.

Only the Phillies have the ability to run away with the Wild Card spot. They are talented enough, but have been playing below standards most of the year. Unfortunately, I do not see this changing in September. If they win the wild card, it will come in the last week!

Q: On David Bell, from Many Readers

Hey! CD, what's up with David Bell and do you expect him back this year?

CD says...
Several readers have asked me about David Bell and whether or not I believe he will be back and playing soon. First, let me say that I have no medical expertise and only know what I read. I was a David Bell supporter and was happy when the Phils signed him. I would like nothing better than for Bell to come back and be the player he was in San Francisco and Seattle.

However, the whole David Bell story is sounding more and more like the Lenny Dykstra story circa 1998. Dykstra had every ailment from a bad knee to sinus conditions. In reality, his back was bad and the Phils became increasingly convinced that he would never play again. Yet, for insurance reasons, they had to give Nails every chance to come back on his own, and then make the decision to retire. In this way, the insurance would pay the remainder of his salary… and in fact, that's what happened.

I am becoming convinced that David Bell is suffering from a career threatening injury, be it a hip or a back. I also believe that the Phils are beginning to think this way, also. Still, they are committed to Bell for three more years and 13 million dollars. This is money they would gladly pay for a healthy and productive Bell, but not to a player with a career threatening injury.

I believe the Phils are being very careful to give Bell all the time he needs to get back on the field. In this way, it would be Bell's decision if and when he retires…which would allow the Phils to request that insurance pay the rest of his salary.

The David Bell story has just had too many winding curves not to appear to have more than meets the eye. As I mentioned, it seems eerily similar to the Dykstra case.

Time will tell, and I hope I am wrong, but I will not be surprised if David Bell is forced to retire at some point in the near future.

Columnist's Note: This ends today's edition of Hey! CD. I welcome comments & questions. Please send to connectthedots@earthlink.net, and I will respond in a future edition of this column. Thanks for visiting, and see you next time! CD


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