Fortunes of Floyd, Bucktrot Change

As Phillies players and prospects reported to Clearwater this past spring, things looked wonderful for Gavin Floyd. Meanwhile, things looked questionable for Keith Bucktrot. Now, fast forward to the present day and there are question marks surrounding Floyd, while Bucktrot has dismissed some of the question marks surrounding him.

One of the off-season debates was how to fit Gavin Floyd into the Phillies starting rotation. There were debates about whether he should replace Cory Lidle or possibly, even Vicente Padilla. As it turned out, he did replace Padilla, at least temporarily, as Padilla started the season on the disabled list.

In Floyd's first start, he was simply awe inspiring. Floyd held the hot hitting St. Louis Cardinals to just one run on three hits over seven innings as the Phillies beat St.Louis 10-4. From there, it was all downhill. Floyd would go just three innings against Atlanta in his next start before heading to the bullpen when Padilla returned.

In his first start of the year, Padilla struggled and Floyd came on to throw gasoline on the fire. He was lit up for eight earned runs in three innings against the Mets. Another disastrous relief outing in Atlanta and Floyd was headed back to AAA Scranton where the Phillies had figured on him being this season.

Things have not gone well for Floyd in Scranton either. He seemed to be pulling out of his slide when he threw six decent innings against Durham last Wednesday. Then, another bad outing Monday night as Floyd was hit for five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against Louisville. In the minors, Floyd now stands at 1-5, 7.71 after six starts. In 30 1/3 innings, he's given up 44 hits and an uncharacteristic 16 walks. Opponents are hitting .349 against him.

Keith Bucktrot spent all of last season with AA Reading, going 4-7, 4.87 in 20 starts. His season was marred by a sore right shoulder that sidelined him for the month of June.

This spring, the shoulder pain came back and Bucktrot, after struggling through spring training in both the major league and minor league camps, started the season on the disabled list. With rest and a tough rehab regimen, Bucktrot worked his way back to pitch in extended spring camp and the results were encouraging.

After his outing on Monday, the Phillies minor league staff had seen enough and decided to activate Bucktrot, but keep him with Clearwater for the time being. After a couple of starts with Clearwater, it's likely that he'll climb back to AA Reading and possibly finish the season at AAA Scranton if all goes well.

Floyd and Bucktrot are seemingly on two different paths. They came into the season also seemingly on two different paths, but have crossed. Floyd insists that he's healthy and that his struggles at the major league level didn't damage him psychologically, although he admits that he was concerned about having to pitch out of the bullpen. For his part, Bucktrot appears healthy and while the shoulder problems won't be considered completely gone until he can prove himself over the rest of the season, he appears ready to provide the proof that the Phillies are looking for.

Bucktrot's struggles last season had dropped him to tenth spot in the organization on the list of the Top 50 Prospects. It was a fall from number four where Bucktrot had been on the Top Prospects List. Simply showing that he is healthy and that he can return to form - more his form of 2003 when he went a combined 10-8, 3.86 than his 2004 showing - will bounce Bucktrot well up the list of prospects once again. In fact, with Floyd struggling, Cole Hamels still rehabbing and Scott Mitchinson still pitching in extended camp, only Scott Mathieson and J.A. Happ are showing much competition for Bucktrot at this point of the season.

Then, there's Floyd. If it's not an injury and not psychological, it must be mechanical. Floyd's struggles are highlighted by the fact that Hamels, another highly touted pitching prospect, has struggled so much. Floyd and Hamels were supposed to be one-two in some combination as part of the Phillies rotation for years to come in the not distant future.

Scranton Pitching Coach Rod Nichols has been working with Floyd and thought he had fixed some mechanical issues. Apparently, there is more work to be done after Monday night's struggles for Floyd.

There has to be concerns rippling through the organization when the Phillies look at their list of top pitching prospects. Floyd was counted on as being insurance at AAA this season and becoming a permanent fixture in the rotation by next season if not late this season. Bucktrot's future was somewhat cloudier, though still optimistic. If their paths continue taking the turns that they have, those roles may reverse when the Phillies ponder the future of their starting rotation.

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