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 Cole Hamels, Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson from Dick DeNenno, Landenberg PA

Hey! CD,
how far from the big leagues are pitching phenoms Cole Hamels, Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson? Also, what do they project as starters in terms of top of the line or middle of the rotation starters?

CD says...
Hi, Dick, and welcome back to the Pulse!

As far as Hamels, Floyd and Madson are concerned, my answers may surprise you… but this is what I am hearing. The Phils, who are not known for rushing young pitchers, actually believe that Floyd, who starts the year at Reading, could be at SWB and Triple A by the end of '04. They think he will be in the rotation by 2005.

Hamels is currently one step behind Floyd but could catch up quickly, he is that good! Watch for Hamels to begin the year at Clearwater in the FSL and advance to Reading by mid-season. If he doesn't unnecessarily struggle, he could be at SWB in '05, and make his major league debut late that year.

As for Madson, he is ready for the big leagues now but will probably start the '04 season at SWB. Watch for him to be the first pitcher called up if one of our starters struggles or is injured. Projection wise, Hamels is considered a potential #1 hurler, a guy to build a staff around. Floyd projects only slightly behind Hamels and is a #2 hurler-in-waiting. Madson's ceiling is not as high as this; he is more of a middle of the rotation starter.

Nevertheless, with these three hurlers, coupled with youngsters like Myers, Wolf and Padilla, the Phils appear well stocked for starting pitching in the upcoming years.

Thanks for the question, Dick, and Happy Holidays!

Q. On the Signing of Free Agent Pitcher Roberto Hernandez, from Robert A. Davis Architects

Hey! CD
, why did the Phils sign reliever Roberto Hernandez when they could have just kept Terry Adams? Your thoughts on this?

CD says…
Many people are asking the same question, Robert, and here is what I sense the Phils are thinking. This was not only a question of economics but performance as well. If the Phils had taken Terry Adams to arbitration, he might have received 4 million dollars. Hernandez was just signed for a base of $750,000, a savings of over 3 million dollars.

Considering that Kevin Millwood just accepted arbitration and will receive 11 million dollars this is no small savings, especially if many Phillie scouts view these hurlers in a similar fashion. One of the things Phillie fans don't realize is how effective Hernandez was at the Vet last year.

He indicated how much he liked the Vet mound and his numbers bear this out. In four appearances he pitched 4 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits, walking 2 and striking out 3 hitters. Hernandez was very comfortable with the high mound, a mound that will be moved to the new ballpark!

Another thing the Phils appreciated was Hernandez's willingness to accept any role the Phils deemed fitting for him. Adams has always wanted to be viewed as a starting pitcher or closer, and sometimes chafed under the role he pitched in last year. Given his domestic troubles, the Phils just felt that Hernandez was a better risk.

With the Phils off-season track record of acquiring Wagner, Worrell and keeping Millwood, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the Phils on this one!

Take care, Robert, and best wishes for the New Year!

Q. On Kevin Millwood's problems last year from Mary Ellen, Exton PA

Hey! CD
, has there been any "mending of fences" between Millwood and some Phillie coaches or manager since the end of last year? Did this help in his return?

CD says...
Mary Ellen; you are a very astute Phillies fan! How did you know that there were in fact some issues between Millwood and Pitching Coach Joe Kerrigan? This is surprising because most observers would have assumed the concerns were between the quiet Millwood and the volatile Larry Bowa, especially after the game in Milwaukee when Kevin was removed earlier than he would have liked.

Actually, the disagreements between Millwood and Kerrigan are fairly minor and were taken care of after the season ended. To quote a source close to the situation, Kerrigan was told, "to get out of Millwood's face!" In defense of Kerrigan, who I like very much, his style is very much an "in your face" type of coaching style.

The problems were minor and were resolved. I say it will not have any lingering effect on this season.

Thanks for the question, Mary Ellen, and be safe during the holidays.

Q. On the Phils Chances of Reaching the Century Mark in Victories in 2004, from Dominick Patrone, Richmond VA

Hey! CD
, what a great time to be a Phillie fan! With the recent acquisitions of Wagner and Worrell to the bullpen and the decision of Millwood to accept arbitration, I see the Phils winning 100 games next season! What do you think?

CD says…
Whoa, my friend; your optimism is admirable but let's hold off on the title clinching before the season even begins! While I think the Phils have had the best off-season of any team (including Boston), I do understand baseball history.

History tells me that to win 100 games takes lots of luck, lots of skill… and lots of bad teams! The Phils are only guaranteed one of the three, lots of skill. The luck intangible remains to be seen. Will the Phils stay healthy? How will Larry Bowa meld his tempestuous personality with a team as talented as this one? How long will it take for the Phils to become accustomed to their new park?

Only twice in the Phils entire history have they ever won 100 games, in 1976 and 1977. Both teams had one constant… they almost always won their home games. We don't know yet if this Phils team was built with the new stadium in mind… time will tell.

As far as playing a preponderant amount of bad teams… this does not seem likely considering the Phils reside in the tough NL East. Lets take for granted that the Braves, Marlins and Expos appear weaker in 2004, it is still hard for me to believe that all three teams will simply fall apart. Add to that an improved Mets team, and the Phils will play 76 of their 162 games against four relatively decent division teams.

Lest we forget, add to the list the strong teams in Houston, Chicago and San Francisco, and it doesn't end there. Solid teams in Los Angeles, Arizona and St. Louis will make sure that the race to 100 wins will be an uphill battle. Frankly, I don't see it happening.

That said, here's another angle to the equation. This Phillie team has the potential to be the best team since 1980, and plausibly has the deepest starting pitching staff in 40 years. It will not surprise me to see the Phils win between 95-97 games. And with a bit of luck, you may get 100!

Take care, my friend, and thanks for your continued contributions to The Pulse!

Q. On any future moves by the Phillies from Jason M. Jamison, Chambersburg, PA

Hey! CD
, after bringing back Millwood for another season, are the Phils done acquiring players for the 2004 season?

CD says…
Welcome aboard The Pulse, Jason, and thanks for the question!

The Phils wish list is nearly complete but I think they may have one or two more moves left… both minor in nature. The Phils are thinking of going with 11 pitchers next season instead of 12 and if they do they will have room on the bench for one more player.

The Phils have made no secret to the fact that they would like to find a right handing hitting first baseman to give Jim Thome an occasional day off. If this player has power, then so much the better! The Phils have their eyes on power-hitting Brian Buchanan of the San Diego Padres. If he is not tendered a contract this weekend, and the word is that he won't be, then watch for the Phils to make a move to sign him.

Another player the Phils like very much is speedy outfielder Eric Owens, who played for the Angels this past season. Buchanan and Owens are both talented, though different. Buchanan is more of a one-dimensional player, with power as his forte. Owens is more versatile, much faster, and is a better hitter. He does lack Buchanan's ability to play first base and hit the ball out of the ballpark.

Watch for the Phils to make a move on this, and soon. They may still try and sign another relief pitcher after the non-tender list becomes available. Of particular interest to the Phils could be righty Danny Baez of Cleveland and lefty Damian Moss of Baltimore. They were both non-tendered contracts and are talented pitchers. However, don't expect anymore blockbuster announcements… the Phils are "blockbustered" out for the time being!

Happy Holidays, Jason!

Q. On the Continuing Nomar Garciaparra to the Phils Rumors, from Fred Swain, Edgely, PA

Hey! CD
, is there any truth to the rumors that shortstop Nomar Garciaparra of the Red Sox might end up with the Phillies?

CD says…
Thanks for joining the ever-increasing Phil's fanatics of The Pulse crowd, Fred!

Now, about these "Nomar to the Phils" rumors! Perhaps no story that had its origin started on the Internet ever picked up steam quicker than this one did. What probably started as just an overheard phone call quickly became a story that was picked up by the national news wires, radio stations and television sports channels. That the story grew in volume is not only a tribute to the power of the net but to the knowledge and baseball savvy of many Phillie fans everywhere.

Here is what is known for sure. A very popular Phillie fans discussion board was suddenly blessed for over a week with the participation of "someone who seemed very connected" to the internal mechanism of the Phils organization.

This person reported accurately the trade for Eric Milton, the Phils decision to offer arbitration to Millwood, and the signing of free agent Todd Worrell. Then, on the day the Phils were headed to the Winter Meetings, this person reported that Nomar might soon be traded to the Phils. He never said it would happen, only that it "might".

When coaxed for more information, he reported that the "proposed" trade was for right fielder Bobby Abreu and shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Please keep in mind that these were the only three players he ever mentioned by name.

Before long, clued-up Phillie fans had added one team, the Texas Rangers, and three players, shortstop Alex Rodriguez of the Rangers, and Red Sox outfielders Manny Ramirez and Trot Nixon, to the equation. The rumor was gaining in dimension and taking a life of its own with each added data. What was even more incredible was that the trade made some sense… A-Rod and Abreu to the Red Sox, Ramirez and Rollins to the Rangers, and Nomar and Nixon to the Phils.

Suddenly, this story hit the national news despite the vehement denials of the Phils. Was it ever true? This much is known… the Red Sox almost assuredly made a phone call to the Phils asking of their possible interest in Garciaparra, who they were actively shopping in anticipation of acquiring Rodriguez.

Agent Scott Boras, who represents Rodriguez, did mention that the Red Sox were attempting to get a third team get involved in the still ongoing Rodriguez-Ramirez trade talks. The Phils, with money to spend and a talented shortstop to trade, would seem a logical team to approach. Whether or not the Phils were ever interested in this deal is somewhat problematical. Another question is how Nixon's name ever came into the equation.

Although Nixon was never mentioned by the "source", it is very interesting that his name has been mentioned as a player the Sox might need to move "if and when they acquire A-Rod".

Needless to say, this whole story made for unbelievable theater, and probably more than a bit of semblance of truth. Sadly, the "source" of this rumor has disappeared from the net airwaves, probably never to resurface again.

So, Fred, the answer to your question is a most definite No-No-No…Nomar to the Phils… but probably to the Dodgers in the not too distant future!

Q. On the Need for Another Situational Lefty Reliever, from Scott Culpepper, Bethlehem PA

Hey! CD
, with the recent retirement of lefty relief specialist Dan Plesac, will the Phils give up their desire for another lefty specialist and instead carry eleven pitchers instead of twelve?

CD says…
Scott, let us all hope so!! As talented as Plesac was, and as much as he added to the clubhouse with his veteran presence and leadership ability, this Phils team is better equipped to carry eleven pitchers.

Now that Millwood has rounded out the Phils strong five-man starting pitching staff, the Phils really only need six relievers. They no longer need to carry a "situational" lefty, as righty Todd Worrell has shown the ability to pitch to left-handed hitters and Rheal Cormier is still available to pitch to the real tough lefty hitters like Barry Bonds, Shawn Green and Todd Helton.

Keep in mind one other thing about this Phillie team.

For the first time since 1993, the Phils closer will be manned by a lefty, Billy Wagner. Clearly, with Worrell, Cormier, Roberto Hernandez, Wagner and a combination of Bud Smith, Amaury Telemaco, Josh Hancock, Dave Coggin, Geoff Geary and Eric Junge to fill the six spots, the Phils bullpen is in good hands.

Watch for the 2004 Phils to add a bench player to the mix and scrap the "situational" lefty spot from the roster.

Thanks for the question, Scott, and hope to see you back at The Pulse soon!

Q. On Lefty Bud Smith and His Chances of Making the Phils in 2004, from Adam Freedman, Pawtucket RI

Hey! CD
, in one of your recent articles about the Phils starting pitching for 2004 I noticed you failed to mention lefty Bud Smith, the youngster we acquired in the Scott Rolen trade. What happened to him and is he still in the mix?

CD says…
Welcome from the state of Rhode Island, Adam!

As for Smith, he has certainly not disappeared from the Phils radar screen though his chances of starting the '04 season with the team are slim. Clearly, Smith must first demonstrate to the Phils that he is once again completely healthy and all reports emanating out of Clearwater indicate he is!

Many Phil's fans probably don't realize how talented this youngster was, and the key word is youngster. He is still only 24 years old though his resume already includes a no-hitter against San Diego and a playoff victory over Atlanta. In fact, it was not too many seasons ago that he was rated the Cards #1 prospect, having compiled a 17-2 record in the minor leagues!

Smith's major problem has been getting and staying healthy. If his latest surgery is successful he is young enough to still find a future in Philadelphia. Look for Smith and another youngster, Ryan Madson, to anchor the SWB pitching staff to begin the season. If the Phils should find the need for another lefty on their staff, be it as a starter or long reliever, Smith would likely be the Phil's first choice.

In all fairness to Smith, the best thing that could happen to him would be to pitch a completely healthy season in the minor leagues and fully regain the arm strength that he lost due to injury. If this happens, the chances are good that Smith will be competing for a starting pitching spot on the 2005 staff.

Thanks for the question; Adam, and I hope you become Rhode Island's regular contributor to The Pulse.

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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