The Battle For Number Five

The Phillies don't know who their fifth starter will be when the season opens. It's not too early to start thinking about the pecking order for starter's options.

The Favorite: Adam Eaton (0-1, 13.50)

How can Adam Eaton be the favorite after the season that he had in 2007 and the start that his spring got off to Saturday against the Yankees? Easy, he's still owed over $16.5 million over this season and next and the Phillies don't want to eat that money. Yes, they could put him in the bullpen, but again, the dollar figures would hurt to have him raking in big bucks to be a long reliever. Like it or not, money matters.

The odds of finding some poor sap of a GM to take on Eaton's contract are slim and none, so he's probably not going anywhere and would have to completely fall apart to lose his shot at being the fifth starter once the season opens.

The Top Contender: Travis Blackley (0-0, 0.00)

If the Phillies don't find a way to keep Blackley on the 40 man roster, they risk losing him since he was a Rule 5 pick. They like his arm and he certainly improved his stock with his initial outing on Wednesday (three shutout innings against Cincinnati). He could work out of the bullpen if he doesn't win a spot and the Phillies will look at that as an option.

It's going to get very interesting if Blackley puts up huge spring numbers and Eaton struggles, but for now, consider Blackley just an impressive top contender, who may wind up in the Phillies bullpen to start the season.

Hanging In There: Chad Durbin (0-0, 9.00)

The Phillies didn't sign him as a free agent - albeit a cheap one - to just kick him out of camp. He's somewhat of an insurance policy in case Eaton continued to crumble and nobody else picked up the pieces. The Phillies could do worse than Chad Durbin as a fifth starter, but they could also do much better and may need to do much better if they're going to repeat as NL East Champions.

The Also-rans:

J.D. Durbin (0-0, 9.00)

The "other" Durbin in the pitching derby, J.D. was with the Phillies late last season and didn't do a whole lot to set himself apart (6-5, 5.15 in 18 games with the Phillies). While the Phillies are interested in keeping him around, he's not a great option for their rotation and likely will have to put together a very strong spring to win a spot with the big league club.

Kris Benson (has not pitched)

No matter who wins the competition out of camp, they may need to keep checking in the rear view mirror for Kris Benson. When he's healthy, the Phillies are going to be very interested to see what he can give them, but there's no exact timetable for that to happen. It's unlikely that he's going to get healthy quick enough to really win a spot on the roster out of camp and he could possibly start the year on the DL, but a healthy Kris Benson added to the rotation at some point during the season could look almost like a trade acquisition.

Long Shots at Best:

J.A. Happ (0-0, 0.00)

Happ threw two shutout innings for the Phillies and is somewhere in the mix, but is likely going to have to start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. A lot would have to go his way to get him into the rotation for the 2008 season, including both Happ pitching well and other potential starters stumbling and stumbling badly. If all that were to happen, the Phillies might consider Happ, who could also be an option for them later in the year if they need starting pitching help.

Spring Stats

Eaton 0 1 13.50 1 2.0 5 3 3 1 0 2 2.50 .500
Blackley 0 0 0.00 1 3.0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0.33 .111
C. Durbin 0 0 9.00 1 2.0 3 2 2 0 0 3 1.50 .333
J. Durbin 0 0 9.00 1 2.0 5 2 2 1 1 0 3.00 .500
Benson 0 0 0.00 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 .000
Happ 0 0 0.00 1 2.0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0.50 .167

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