See You In September; Will Call-Ups Bring Relief?

For some teams, September 1st means a chance to look at some of the highly touted prospects that the organization hopes will make their club stronger in the not too distant future. For the Phillies, September 1st is more a chance to add some much needed relief to a tired, struggling team that is looking for help. Along with some of the familiar faces may come a prospect or two auditioning for a major league job in 2004.

Some of the additions that the Phillies will make on September 1st are easy. Brandon Duckworth has pitched well at Scranton since being demoted in favor of Amaury Telemaco. Duckworth is 2-1, 3.38 in his return to Scranton and the rest of his numbers were exactly what the Phillies wanted to see from Ducky. In 18.2 innings, he's struck out 14 hitters and has walked just four. He's averaged just over six innings per outing and has been putting away hitters at a much quicker rate than he did when he was with the big league club. Duckworth may get to make a start or two, but it's more likely that he'll work out of the bullpen when he returns to Philly.

Another easy addition is Hector Mercado. The Phillies sent Mercado out when they traded for Mike Williams back in July. Like Duckworth, Mercado has done a nice job for Scranton with a 1.33 ERA although he has gone 0-3. Mercado started one game for Scranton and has pitched in relief in 11 others. His control has been pretty good – 9 walks, 18 strikeouts – and like Duckworth, he is challenging hitters more rather than running deep counts.

With the Phillies bullpen struggling to say the least, Mercado and Duckworth will be welcome additions and they may not be the only additions. The Phillies would have definitely looked for a way to add Wayne Gomes to the roster, but an injury ended his season. It will be interesting to see what happens to Gomes during the offseason, since he was pitching well and appeared healthy when he suddenly developed more pain in his shoulder and wound up on the DL. Geoff Geary has been solid for the Red Barons. Geary (9-4, 2.16, 5 saves) is a likely addition to the Phillies roster and should be in line for a major league job in 2004. Eric Junge and Josh Hancock will also get consideration, but it's unlikely that the Phillies will bring up too many pitchers only to have some of them sitting around.

The Phillies will also add a catcher to the mix, which will allow Larry Bowa to rely on Todd Pratt more as a pinch-hitter. The choices are Jesse Levis, a veteran who hit .277 for Scranton and was impressive in spring training with the Phillies or Jeremy Salazar, who hit just .188 at AAA. It's likely that the Phillies will go with the veteran Levis since if they do need an emergency catcher, they would likely prefer to go with a veteran.

Another definite is infielder Nick Punto. The Phillies were impressed with how Punto carried himself while he was with the big league club and figure that he will be the next Tomas Perez type super-sub for the Phillies big league club. Punto adds speed, has learned to play three infield positions and showed that he wasn't completely overmatched against major league pitchers either.

There are two interesting names to watch. One is David Coggin. The Phillies believe that Coggin is well on the road back from an injury that basically sidelined him for the entire season, but they're not sure about pushing him. If the Phillies felt that Coggin was healthy enough, they would add him to the roster without giving it much thought. Right now though, they may just let his season end and wait to see what he can do next spring. Coggin has pitched just six innings in four appearances for Scranton and has no record and a 1.50 ERA on the season.

The other interesting case will be Eric Valent. The Phillies front office is undecided on Valent's value. He has struggled in earlier major league auditions and had a bad season at Scranton this year, hitting just .220 with 12 homeruns. He also struck out 96 times. One school of thought is that the Phillies will let Valent sort of die on the vine and that he'll likely be somewhere else next season. The other school of thought is that the Phillies might bring Valent to the majors and continue working with him, just picking and choosing his spots very carefully. Mike Arbuckle still believes that Valent has major league potential and his opinion carries a lot of weight in the Phillies hierarchy.

All in all, the additions should help. There will at least be a few extra arms to eat up some innings and many of those arms have at least some major league experience. The addition of a third catcher makes the bench stronger since Pratt would be available for pinch-hitting duty. September 1st is just around the corner, but it can't get here soon enough for the depleted Phillies.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories