Carpenter Is Ready, But For What?

Drew Carpenter will be joining the Phillies, taking the roster spot of Kyle Kendrick, who was demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. The question is will Carpenter take Kendrick's rotation spot or pitch out of the bullpen with another move yet to come?

The demotion of Kyle Kendrick (5-4, 4.82) was a surprise only because the Phillies are slow to make such moves these days. After another rough outing Monday night in St. Louis, in which Kendrick allowed three home runs in the fifth inning alone, apparently, the Phillies felt the move to do something; anything. Kendrick had shown that while he could be good for a while - a 3.13 ERA in the month of May - ultimately, he just might not be cut out for the job of a major league starter, especially considering that his ERA in the fifth inning of games this season is over 11.

Maybe, the Phillies have seen enough and realize that it's now or never if they're going to start fixing this wounded ballclub. The demotion of Kendrick and subsequent promotion right-hander Drew Carpenter (7-6, 3.41 at Lehigh Valley) is a needed move, but might not be the end of the moves. Carpenter last pitched on Friday, throwing 79 pitches in a no-decision against Louisville, meaning that his next scheduled day to pitch would be Wednesday, but the Phillies don't really need a starter until Kendrick's turn would come up again on Saturday. It's unusual for a club to promote a starter if he's not going to start in the next day or two, at most. Otherwise, they generally will promote someone else, who can contribute for even just a few days before bringing the starter officially aboard the active roster. If that's the case, then Carpenter will join the Phillies bullpen and there's another move coming in time for Saturday's game against Colorado. If Carpenter will be working out of the bullpen, he's likely ready to go after three-days rest from his last minor league start.

It's possible that Lehigh Valley's Tuesday night starter - J.A. Happ - will make a short appearance in his start and go on three-days rest to pitch for the Phillies on Saturday. That assumption is questionable though, because Happ was getting hit hard in his rehab assignment, which is why he was optioned directly to Lehigh Valley after being activated. Since officially being activated and optioned, Happ has made just two starts - near identical in their numbers - going five innings in each and allowing three earned runs in each, which isn't exactly showing any improvement over his rehab starts with Lehigh Valley, where he threw 9 1/3 innings in two starts and allowed six earned runs. It's hard to believe that the Phillies have seen enough improvement in Happ to promote him to the majors.

Nate Bump (7-4, 3.15 at Lehigh Valley) started Monday night for the IronPigs, on the same schedule as Kendrick, but he was hit hard for eight earned runs in two innings of work, which isn't exactly the type of outing that gets you promoted. However, if the Phillies are looking at the body of his work, there is no denying that Bump has been very good this season.

That leaves a potential trade to fill the spot in the Phillies rotation. A quick look at starters who are on a schedule to start on Saturday pumps out the name Ben Sheets, who pitched a near-gem for Oakland last night, but lost 2-1 to the Red Sox. Sheets is expensive - $4 million guaranteed, plus $2 million in likely incentives for the rest of the season - and has a 4.53 ERA with Oakland this season, making him a pitcher who might not seem to have a lot going for him on the trade market. If the A's were to pick up part of his contract, however, maybe the Phillies could hope to catch a pitcher who may come relatively cheaply in terms of prospects and turn him into a productive piece of their rotation for the rest of the season.

If there is nothing else in the works, maybe Carpenter is the guy. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. He deserves a true shot at pitching in the majors and his stuff is likely good enough for him to succeed as a back-of-the-rotation type of guy, at the very least. Don't look at his major league stats that he's compiled so far, because in three of those outings, he was pitching in relief, a very unfamiliar territory for him. In his lone start, he made an emergency appearance against Washington in a pouring-down rain, also not an ideal way to gauge a young pitcher. Instead, it's worth looking at Carpenter in a much better light. He has been consistent in his 44 Triple-A outings, posting an ERA of 3.35 and a record of 18-13 for a team that has been pretty rough record-wise during Carpenter's stay with the club.

Carpenter isn't a strikeout pitcher - 428 Ks in 587 minor league innings - but he is a guy who relies on his control and has issued 2.8 walks per nine innings over his minor league career. He also has allowed just under one home run per nine innings, which all Phillies pitchers strive for to prove that they can pitch in Citizens Bank Park. If the Phillies wanted a long-man for the bullpen, they had one in Nelson Figueroa or they could have taken a look at Brandon Duckworth (4-3, 3.56 at Lehigh Valley) or Brian Gordon (1-1, 3.93 at Lehigh Valley), both of whom have put up strong numbers for the IronPigs and also have the capability of pitching a couple of innings at a time, or even more in Duckworth's case.

Another potential reason for Carpenter getting the call is a showcase. You always have to look at moves carefully at this time of the season and figure if there is an ulterior motive. After all, if Carpenter pitches either in long relief or in Kendrick's spot in the rotation, he can likely give the club at least what Kendrick was giving them and possibly more, while providing other clubs a chance to see him against major league competition. It's a win-win for both sides.

There well could be another shoe to drop and it will be wise to keep an eye open for other moves that the Phillies may make here and there. Perhaps, the front office realized how late it's getting and they've decided to at least start sending some messages to help provide a wake-up call for their slumbering major league club.

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