Who Ever Thought It Would Come To This?

The Phillies starting rotation had Kevin Millwood returning rather than testing free agency. Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla had become strong, veteran pitchers. Brett Myers put up some impressive numbers and seemed to be maturing more and more with each passing day. Then, the Phillies added Eric Milton and the rotation became one of the best in baseball. Now, the Phillies will start Brian Powell and Paul Abbott in back-to-back games this weekend. Ouch!

Injuries are part of the game. That's why teams try to make their teams and organizations as deep as possible. Combine that with the fact that pitching is what makes winning teams and the old adage that you can never have enough pitching is oh, so true. Just ask the Phillies.

With what appeared to be one of the strongest and deepest rotations coming into baseball, they've now taken to combing the waiver wire for starting pitchers. Injuries. Next time you go to work, imagine that a full forty-percent of the people there called off sick. How productive would the office be? Then, imagine if they were all going to be out for a while. Even the best and biggest of companies would have problems under those circumstances. Consider too, that starting pitching isn't the only issue.

Amaury Telemaco is now out with a sore shoulder and elbow. Billy Wagner just returned from the DL and Roberto Hernandez isn't far removed from his stint on the disabled list. That means that of the 11 pitchers the Phillies started the season with, five of them (forty-five-percent) have been out with injuries at one time or another over the past month or so. Consider too, that pitching isn't the only issue.

Jim Thome has missed some time because of injuries, as has David Bell. Placido Polanco is just off the disabled list, too.

While it's easy to be impatient and be crying out because the Phillies aren't running away with the division, the fact is that the Phillies have hung in there pretty well. Flashback about three months. If someone ran down the list of Phillies injuries, would you think they would be just 2 1/2 games out of first? I'm not the biggest Larry Bowa fan and still think this team could be even better with someone else at the helm, the fact is that Bowa has done a pretty decent job as far as the big picture is concerned.

So now, enter Brian Powell and Paul Abbott.

Powell was pitching well for AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre before being recalled. Of course, once he hit Philly, he wound up getting hurt and didn't even appear in one game for the Phils before finding his way onto the DL. Now, he's healthy again and has wrapped up a rehab assignment back at Scranton. While the 30 year old Powell is 3-1, 1.62 this season at Scranton and has a minor league ERA of 3.83 in his career, he also has a 6.00 major league ERA over parts of four seasons. Basically, he's what is referred to as a quadruple-A pitcher. A little too good for AAA, but not really good enough to be a major leaguer.

Then, there's Paul Abbott. The 36 year old has won 40 major league games - 17 of them came three seasons ago as a member of the Seattle Mariners, where he was a teammate of David Bell. When the Phillies asked Bell about Abbott's abilities and how he thought he would fit in, Bell gave a solid report and the Phillies signed the recently waived pitcher. The fact that Abbott was waived by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tells you something. Actually though, Abbott had a decent explanation. He claims that being on a team that bad, he tended to lose his focus and that shouldn't happen here in Philadelphia. If nothing else, it's a good spin on things, but let's see what happens Sunday in Minnesota. Ironically, Minnesota is the last place where Abbott pithced. He allowed seven runs in four innings and was released by the D'Rays two days later. Plus, Abbott spent parts of three seasons with the Twins.

Nothing against Brian Powell or Paul Abbott, but to paraphrase former Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, "They're no Randy Wolf or Vicente Padilla."

The Phillies will likely need to cover another five or six starts combined while Wolf and Padilla recover from their elbow tendinitis, which if you look at the Phillies staff is obviously contagious. Who knew?

The Phillies are resisting the temptation to bring up Gavin Floyd from AA Reading and put him in the rotation. Whether it's wise or not, is another issue. The fact is that the Phillies may have a good, solid team, but they are going to need to be pro-active when it comes to filling holes. The truth is that with the exception of Floyd at AA, there really aren't any pitchers worth getting too excited about that can come up from the minors to fill holes. After all, if you're not going to dig down to AA for Floyd, you're not going to dig down to class-A Clearwater for Cole Hamels. Same can be said for position players, where the Phillies AAA team is filled primarily with journeyman, quadruple-A types for the most part.

For now, the Phillies revel in the fact that none of the injuries have been very serious. You have to hope that they don't linger and that everybody comes back healthy and strong. Injuries are after all, a part of the game and the Phillies have had their share. Remember too, the old saying that 'what doesn't kill you just serves to make you stronger'. The good news is that the Phillies haven't been mortally wounded - just wounded.

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories