How To Solve The Rotation Situation

The Phillies appear to have six pitchers who could handle spots in the five-man starting rotation. Odds are that one of them will wind up in the minors or the bullpen, but could there be other solutions?

With Jon Lieber, Brett Myers and Cory Lidle all having locks on their spots in the rotation, there were two spots in question. Ryan Madson, Ryan Franklin and Gavin Floyd have all pitched well enough this spring to win one of those spots.

The smart money right now is on either Madson or Franklin winding up in the bullpen or on Floyd being sent out to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. That became especially possible when Ricardo Rodriguez, who was thought to have won a job as the Phils' long reliever, was released.

Floyd won't be moved to the bullpen, since that experiment failed miserably last season. Madson had a lot of success out of the bullpen and would be the likely one to move if the Phillies went that direction. If the Phillies insist on doing something "inside the box", then it's likely that Floyd will be optioned out and start the season at AAA, which wouldn't be horrible, since he would be able to serve as a quality insurance policy.

There are other, more inventive solutions.

How about a deal? The Phillies could consider dealing Madson or Floyd elsewhere and getting something in return, but that's not the best way to go. What about shopping Cory Lidle? There are teams looking for pitching - the Cubs just put both Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the DL - and Lidle isn't that bad of a pitcher, who works relatively cheap. He's averaged over 190 innings in each of the last five seasons and teams love guys who can eat innings. Is it a gamble? Yes, it is, but even if things go badly, there's Robinson Tejeda, Eude Brito and Daniel Haigwood waiting in the wings at AAA and with any luck, Cole Hamels isn't that far away from being ready. In other words, it could work.

Another idea - and this one is way outside the box - is a six man rotation. It's been used on occasion by other teams, but that's generally late in the season to give starters a bit of a breather when they're starting to wear down. With off days, it would be a little dicey on using it to start the season, but could keep guys fresher later in the season and could help to sort out the rotation situation. Perhaps one of the starters will struggle or an injury hits and then you can simply slide easily back to a five man rotation. The six man idea could especially benefit Madson, who isn't used to pitching a lot of innings, since he had been working out of the bullpen the past couple seasons.

Some speculation has come on Madson returning to the bullpen to solidify the back end of the staff. Bad idea. Madson wants to start, the Phillies are giving him the chance to start and he has made the most of it. Plus, he has three quality pitches that would be wasted out of the bullpen. Plus, as Madson moves closer to free agency, he'll remember these decisions, and so will his agent, Scott Boras. If anybody is going to the bullpen, it should be Ryan Franklin, who started his major league career as a reliever.

The best solution may be a deal to send Lidle elsewhere. Perhaps a team could be found that would take Lidle and give up a back-end bullpen type pitcher that the Phillies need. Whatever solution the Phillies go with, some "outside the box" thinking must be applied to the situation.

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