How Can Phillies Make Pitching Numbers Work?

The Phillies went out and added two starting pitchers in Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee. Now, they have to figure out a way to get the best out of all those arms.

The Phillies are faced with one of those perplexing numbers games that teams sometimes come up against. When Pedro Martinez is ready to pitch at the major league level, they will technically have seven starters for five spots, although Rodrigo Lopez has already been moved to the bullpen, leaving six real candidates.

So, how do you fit six people into five chairs?

Simple, really. Stick with me on this one. One of the concerns about Pedro Martinez was how deep into games he could pitch. Charlie Manuel actually referred to him as a "five inning pitcher" and we know how those guys can burn a bullpen. Jamie Moyer has had himself a tough season and is averaging 5.6 innings per start. What if the Phillies piggy-backed Martinez and Moyer?

Either of them could start, depending on the lineup that they're facing and then the other comes in to start the fifth inning. That way, you're only counting on each of them for four innings of work. If whichever one starts is throwing particularly well, then he can stay in for an extra inning or two, leaving the other to finish out the game. It would also give Manuel the option to pinch-hit early for his pitcher if a key spot comes up. Let's say the Phillies are down 2-0 in the fourth, have the bases loaded and one out with the pitcher's spot coming up. He would have the luxury of pinch-hitting and not having to worry about blowing apart his bullpen. After all, if Manuel has both Martinez and Moyer in his rotation, that makes for two spots that aren't likely to give him a lot of innings, making for a worn out bullpen.

The downside is that both pitchers would have to acclimate themselves to pitching without a definitive starting time, but you can generally figure about when the fifth inning would be coming, so it wouldn't be that tough of a situation to deal with.

Right now, the odd-man-out of the rotation seems to be young J.A. Happ, but that doesn't make a lot of sense. Happ's contributions to the club have been huge this season and dropping him into the bullpen would be diminishing the potential return from him, except in one situation. What if J.A. Happ were to go to the back of the bullpen, rather than the front? Instead of making him a long reliever, the Phillies could put him into the late inning mix.

Take a quick look at Happ's "clutch stats" this season. With runners in scoring position and two outs, opponents are hitting just .073 against him. In games deemed "late and close" - situations where the game is in the seventh inning or later with the game tied or the opposing team either ahead by a run or having the tying run either hitting or on deck - opponents hit just .182 against Happ. Plus, he's worked as a reliever, so he knows how to get ready and handle the rigors of pitching in relief.

As for who exits the Phillies 25 man roster when Martinez is added, there are a couple of options. The most obvious would be to assign Lopez to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he would have to pass through waivers and might not make it. That's not a huge concern, but in a perfect world, Lopez would be around to add a little veteran insurance. Of course, if he were to come up with an "injury", the Phillies could put him on the DL and then send him to Lehigh Valley on a "rehab" assignment before he would return in September when rosters expand.

Could there be another candidate to be voted off the island? This may not be the most popular idea, but what about Chad Durbin? He's got a very pedestrian 4.62 ERA this season and has walked 33 hitters in 48 2/3 innings of work. Some of his peripheral numbers aren't bad, though - just five of 19 inherited runners scored and an opponents average of .228 - so he's not exactly the first name that you think of cutting, although pitching coach Rich Dubee publicly ripped Durbin for not disclosing his injury sooner. Like with Rodriguez, the Phillies could push off a decision by sending Durbin on a rehab assignment until September 1 rolls around.

There are ways to make the numbers work, but it will take some juggling. The key is to find the right mix of pitchers in the right roles for the Phillies to repeat as World Champions.

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