Hey CD...What's The Phillie Pulse On...?

<b><I>Hey! CD</b></I> is a regular Q&A column by California Dreamin, a Phillie die-hard from SoCal. His unique perspective on Phillie baseball issues & events draws grassroots interest from Phillie fans spread all over the country. Hop on the good ship PhilliePulse and send your questions to CD at <a href=mailto:connectthedots@earthlink.net>connectthedots@earthlink.net</a> and read his response to you on a future edition of this column.

Q: On the Rule 5 Draft, from Donald Rieck at Comcast

Hey! CD
, would you explain the upcoming Rule 5 draft?

CD says...
Thanks for the question, Donald, as the Rule 5 draft is coming up in two weeks and it has been in the past few years a particularly painful day for the Phillies.

Basically, the Rule 5 draft allows teams to draft minor league players who have been playing professionally for at least 3 seasons and are not currently on the 40-man roster. The only catch to this arrangement, which costs a mere $50,000, is that the player must remain on the major league 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the parent club. This years draft will be held on December 15, at the Winter Baseball Meetings.

The Phils, with a deep farm system, have suffered two particularly painful losses in the past 4 seasons. In December 1999, the Phils lost a hard-throwing righty named Derrick Turnbow, a 12-game winner at Piedmont that season. Drafted by the Anaheim Angels, he is now being projected as a possible closer for the club next season and throws a fastball that has been clocked as high as 98 MPH.

In December of 2001, the Phils exposed a young righty named Miguel Ascencio, who was quickly grabbed by the Kansas City Royals. Before the 2002 season was over, Ascencio was in the starting rotation for KC and finished the year at 4-7. He suffered an arm injury in 2003 but is still counted on as a future starter in KC.

Last December, the Phils nearly lost infielder Travis Chapman. Drafted by Cleveland, and then traded to Detroit the same day, he almost made the Tigers team out of Spring Training. Thankfully for the Phils, he didn't make the club and was offered back to Philadelphia. The Phils took him back, placed him at SWB and he was a Triple A All-Star this past year.

As for this year, the players to watch are pitchers Greg Kubes, Yoel Hernandez and Rob Tejeda. While it is doubtful that any of these pitchers will be drafted, it is possible, especially in the case of Tejeda, a very talented right-handed pitcher. A team looking for a situational left-hander could draft Kubes.

Historically, the Phils have shied away from drafting any players. The last significant pick was Dave Hollins, picked in 1991. However, it is possible that the Phils, now with a roster of 36 players, could opt to draft a relief pitcher to compete for a spot on the 2004 staff.

Q: On Trading for Hank Blalock or Mark Texiera, from Joseph Stanczak, Philadelphia PA

Hey! CD
…any chance of the Phils acquiring one of the Rangers young players, Hank Blalock or Max Texiera?

CD says...
In three words, my friend… not a chance. Both Blalock and Texiera are part of the baseball jewel of jewels… young, low cost, high performance players. For a team like Texas, burdened with the monolithic contract of Alex Rodriguez, both Blalock and Tex are luxuries they can ill afford to do without.

However, I will offer this caveat for several years down the line. The Phils have Hank's younger brother, Jake Blalock, in their farm system and he is on track to get to the big leagues in 2007, just about the time that Hank might become a free agent. It is not impossible to imagine the two wanting to play together someday. If this should happen, the Phils would happily attempt to bring Hank Blalock on board.

Until then, we will just have to admire the talents of Blalock and Texiera from afar. Thanks for the question!

Q: On the Ramifications of Losing Kevin Millwood, from Gary Miller

Hey! CD
, if Kevin Millwood signs elsewhere and the Phils don't bring in another top-notch hurler, can they remain contenders for the NL East title?

CD says…
Pitching, pitching, pitching… its on the mind of Phillie fans everywhere. First, Gary, the Phils will get a starter this winter. How do we know that? Because both GM Ed Wade and Manager Larry Bowa have promised they will and I believe them. Now, it may not be Millwood, nor Colon, Vasquez or Pettitte.

However, if the Phils fail in these endeavors, look for them to bring in a hurler like Livan Hernandez, Sidney Ponson, Freddy Garcia or Carl Pavano. Wade has stated that ideally he would like to have a hurler on a one year deal so he has some room to move on a top notch free agent pitching market next winter.

This is the biggest gamble of Wade's tenure and how it turns out may end up being his defining moment as GM. Who the Phils bring in to compliment Wolf, Padilla and Myers will be an interesting and much discussed item for the rest of the Winter months.

I will offer one more opinion on this. Wade's history is to be quite active in December, and I expect this December to be no different. The Phils will have their hurler before the New Year. I also expect rookie Ryan Madson to become the Phils #5 starter coming out of spring training.

Hope this answers your question, Gary, write again!

Q: On Signing Free Agent Andy Pettitte, from Michael L. Lear

Hey! CD
…in your column about pitchers of potential interest to the Phillies, you failed to mention Andy Pettitte. How come?

CD says…
Hi, Michael, welcome to the PhilliePulse! As for Pettitte, he was not mentioned simply because the Phils realize that it would be fruitless to make more than a cursory effort towards a pitcher who clearly has decided that he will either go home to Houston or stay in New York. In fact, the odds are very long that he even gets an offer from the Astros; they cannot sign him without clearing salary, namely outfielder Richard Hidalgo, while the Yanks have made re-signing him their top priority.

Another thing about Pettitte is that he is enamored with the possibility of breaking Whitey Ford's Yankee record of 236 wins by a lefty, and this will keep him in New York. Of course, a 3-4 year contract for about 40-45 million dollars will not hurt either!

Q: On Phillie Rumors, from William Serrano

Hey! CD
…I am a diehard Phillie fan and am starved for Phillie rumors. You always seem to have a few, what's the latest rumor that you have heard?

CD says...
William, always glad to present you with a Phillie rumor or two. Some of this is what I have heard, and some of it is what I believe might happen soon.

The Phils will make one last offer to Millwood this week, but privately, they hope he will reject it (and I think he will) as they much prefer the route of arbitration and a 1-year deal. GM Ed Wade is greatly charmed with next year's class of free agent pitcher's and wants to keep his options open.

Millwood will be offered arbitration this Sunday, December 7, and will have till the 19th to decide what to do. If he thinks it is in his best long-term interests to return to the Phils for one season, and then try free agency again in 2004, then he may say yes. Personally, I think he feels he can get a 3-4 year offer somewhere else, and may opt to turn down arbitration.

Watch for the Phils to sign Todd Pratt and Dan Plesac to 1-year deals soon. Both are valued for their talent and veteran leadership (a Bowa priority!) so it would be surprising if they weren't invited back.

As far as free-agent signings, the Phils will probably wait till the non-tender players are announced on December 21 before signing anyone else, especially with the exorbitant prices the Yanks are paying for middle inning relievers this month. Wade will sign 1-2 players from that list. I will have a better idea of who Wade may be interested in after seeing the list but one pitcher to keep an eye on is pitcher Danny Baez of Cleveland. His name has been in the news for quite some time, indicating that the Phils have at least a cursory interest in him. Stay tuned!

I also think Wade may just draft a player in the Rule 5 draft for the first time in a long time, probably a pitcher. The draft is on December 15. The Phils 40-man roster currently sits at 36 players. I will be very surprised if the Phils roster isn't full by January 1, 2004.

Q: On Signing Free Agent Pitcher Sidney Ponson, from Dominick Patrone, Richmond VA

Hey! CD
… what do you think about the possibility of signing free agent righty Sidney Ponson? He had a solid year, especially in Baltimore.

CD says…
Dominick, the fact that the Phils have NOT mentioned Ponson's name leads me to believe that they may have him on the radar screen, and here is why! They have long coveted him from his Baltimore days. There were even rumors of a Scott Rolen-Sidney Ponson trade a few years ago. Clearly, the Phils like his ability and there is much to like.

Ponson is a 27-year-old workhorse, who had a very solid 2003 season with the Orioles and SF Giants. He likes the East Coast, as there are rumors that he might even return to Baltimore if possible. Its also likely that the Giants will not ask him to return as they were unhappy with his post season meltdown against the Marlins.

In fact, his game against the Marlins is a microcosm of Ponson and his potential frailties. Pitching in Game Two of the best of five series, Ponson had a chance to really give the Giants a leg up in the series. The Giants having won Game One were poised to make short work of the Marlins and gave Ponson a 4-1 lead entering the fifth inning.

Frankly, watching Ponson labor in the fifth inning was painful, he seemed ill at ease with the burden of protecting the lead and quickly allowed the Marlins to tie the score. The Marlins won the game… and the rest is, as they say, history. Many feel he sealed his fate with the Giants on that day.

Watch to see if the Giants offer Ponson arbitration this Sunday. If they do, the Phils may shy from signing a pitcher that they may feel isn't worth the price of a lost #1 draft choice in next June's amateur draft. However, if the Giants say no to arbitration, look for the Phils to make a play at Ponson. There are many in the Phil's organization that feel Joey the K could do wonders with a talent like Ponson.

There you have it, Dominick, thanks for staying in touch!

To My Co-Fans: Thank you for your continued patronage and the undying interest on our beloved Phillies. Keep the questions coming and I'll keep responding. Until next time! CD from the Left Coast

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