Is Emergin' Durbin Changing Trade Focus?

J.D. Durbin was an after thought. He was simply in the majors to fill a spot in the rotation until the Phillies could find somebody else. Now, with back-to-back strong outings, the Phillies are rethinking his role with the team and exactly what their trade focus should be.

J.D. Durbin looked like a guy in line to pick up a ticket for a flight to Ottawa after his first four appearances as a Phillie. A pounding by the Mets in his first start with the club was followed up by three relief appearances that did little to improve his standing with the Major League club. Then, came a simple word of advice from pitching coach Rich Dubee; "breath".

Yup, that's what it all came down to. In all of his haste to impress the fans, coaches and front office, Durbin was forgetting to breath. To take time to smell the hot dogs, if you will. The simple technique has turned him into a guy who picked up wins in two of the Phillies four west coast victories and breathed [pardon the pun] new life into a guy that was once a top ten prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization.

So, with the Phillies losing Jon Lieber and Freddy Garcia, they have now found two young pitchers - Durbin and Kyle Kendrick - who have combined to go 6-2 with a 4.07 ERA. If you look at the numbers using just Durbin's last two outings (the ones where he was actually breathing) the numbers move to 6-1, 3.53 for the young combo. Not bad, considering the team of Lieber and Garcia had amassed a season mark of 4-11, 5.23 on the season.

So, with the two veterans having been seemlessly replaced at least through a month or so of the season, will the Phillies still look for starting pitching in the final days before the trade deadline?


Will they be looking to replace either of the young studs?

Possibly not.

Right now, the weakest link in the starting chain is Adam Eaton (9-6, 5.84). If you look at Eaton's numbers since June 13, the date that Kendrick was added to the rotation, you see a mark of 2-2 with a 6.64 ERA. And if you go from June 29, when Durbin joined the group, you get a 2-1, 5.96 mark for Eaton. That brings up a scenario that was first discussed back in spring training; sending Adam Eaton to the bullpen because of a rotation that's too crowded. Of course, for there to be a crowd now, the Phillies would have to add another arm through a trade, waiver claim or another minor league call-up.

That leaves the Phillies focus to perhaps shift toward finding help for their bullpen and that help could be coming in the form of Brett Myers who has one more minor league rehab hurdle to clear before he might be activated, possibly as early as Thursday or Friday of this week.

The Phillies have scouted Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero (Washington) and have also inquired about Solomon Torres (Pittsburgh) and Octavio Dotel (Kansas City). As recently as this past weekend though, they were in Toronto to see Josh Towers of the Blue Jays pitch and reportedly liked what they saw, even though Towers wasn't at his best.

It should be mentioned too, that Jamie Moyer (8-8, 5.01) has not pitched well in July, either. His July record stands at 1-3 with an 8.75 ERA for the month. The odds of Moyer being bumped from the rotation aren't good though and Eaton or one of the young starters would be much better candidates to be bumped from the rotation should the Phillies acquire another starting pitcher.

Audio Extra: Premium users can sample these clips from Philly Baseball News Radio, heard every Saturday morning at nine on AM 1230 and 1320 in Easton, PA. These clips are from the July 21st edition of the show when host Chuck Hixson spoke with Senior Writer Allen Ariza.

Trade Deadline: In this clip, Hixson and Ariza discuss the mistakes that the Phillies need to avoid as the deadline looms. In this clip, Allen Ariza refers to his article The Master Plan.

J.D. Durbin: In this clip, Hixson and Ariza discuss the success of J.D. Durbin. Keep in mind that this clip was recorded the day before Durbin threw the first complete game shutout of his career against the San Diego Padres.

Allen Ariza on Philly Baseball News Radio: Hear the entire interview with Allen Ariza on Philly Baseball News Radio on July 21, 2007.

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