Carrasco and Drabek Could Help Later

Even though the Phillies have turned to a number of young pitchers for help this season, their cabinets aren't bare. Two of their highest profile pitchers are still toiling away in the minors.

Antonio Bastardo, Andrew Carpenter, Sergio Escalona and J.A. Happ are all young pitchers who have played a role with the Phillies at some point this season. For now, Bastardo and Happ are playing prime time roles in the rotation and both have performed well.

The interesting thing about all of these young pitchers coming to the majors to help out is that there are still more waiting their turn. The two with the highest profiles are Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Drabek.

Carrasco was seen by many as the man to beat in camp when the Phillies were holding open auditions for the fifth spot in their rotation. He started well in spring training, but then fizzled and knocked himself out of the running, putting himself in Triple-A for the first time to start a season. All started well for Carrasco, but he soon started to struggle and his ERA reached a season-high 6.62 after his start on April 12th. Each of his four successive starts since then have lowered his ERA and in his last three starts, he's posted a 2.70 ERA and appears to have returned to the form that he was in for his first three outings of the season.

Had Carrasco been pitching well earlier in the year, he would have likely been the one to get the call when Andrew Carpenter was given a shot to start in a double-header on May 16th. He might have been given the fifth spot in the rotation when Chan Ho Park was demoted or have been given Brett Myers' spot when he went down with a bad hip. Instead, Carrasco continues to pitch at Triple-A, waiting for the next spot that the Phillies may need to fill.

Meanwhile, the biggest news of this past week was Kyle Drabek's promotion from Clearwater to Double-A Reading. The Florida State League simply wasn't big enough for Drabek, who was cruising through the season and threw a complete-game shutout late in May to get his ticket to Reading officially punched.

Wednesday night in Reading, he had a contingent of Phillies front office personnel watching him as he made his first Double-A start and proceeded to turn in an impressive performance. Drabek threw seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and three walks to pick up the win. He has now put together 16 1/3 innings of shutout ball between Clearwater and Reading.

After showing that he's healthy after his Tommy John surgery in 2007, Drabek could very well show himself to be the best of the bunch among a nice class of minor league pitchers. He seems destined to reach Triple-A this season and could even see a September audition with the Phillies if all continues to go as planned.

It should be mentioned too, that Joe Savery (6-1, 4.05) is also pitching pretty well at Reading and it's not out of the question that he'll arrive in the Lehigh Valley before the end of the season.

With Cole Hamels signed long-term, Joe Blanton under team control through next season and Jamie Moyer signed through next season, the Phillies could well face the enviable task of having to hold a pitcher or two back. Happ doesn't figure to relinquish his hold on the fifth spot in the rotation, leaving Carrasco, Drabek, Bastardo and Savery fighting over the crumb that would be the one remaining spot in the rotation. It's very possible that one of them will be used to acquire another starter for this season - and possibly beyond - and it's possible that Blanton will be sent out during the off-season in another deal.

This is one of those good problems that teams love to have. With other clubs constantly looking for pitching, the Phillies would figure to have the upper-hand in dealing for other pieces of the puzzle. Or, they can just look for ways to fit in an extra piece here or there. It's much better than those days of looking to the minors and only finding journeymen pitchers to fill holes.

Much better.

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