Smug Amaro Leaves Just Clues For Rotation

The Phillies starting rotation is getting very interesting. With Kyle Kendrick optioned out and Jamie Moyer exiting early with an injury, the mystery of the Phillies rotation takes on an increasingly urgent feel.

Ruben Amaro Jr. is probably one of those guys who sits in his office and works his way through one of those brain teaser books that you buy at the pharmacy. You know the kind; they have various exercises to put your brain to work and find answers through the use of logic and the sense of reason. Now, he's taking a turn at producing the kind of work that he must obviously enjoy and he's doing it by dropping little hints about the future of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Speaking with reporters prior to the Phillies game in St. Louis, Amaro was smug and none too helpful in talking about what move - or moves - he may make to find a starter for Saturday. The Saturday opening came about when the Phillies optioned Kyle Kendrick to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and recalled starter Drew Carpenter, only to put him in the bullpen as a long reliever rather than put him in Kendrick's rotation spot. Of course, this is Philadelphia and things wouldn't be complete without a twist in plot, so Jamie Moyer came up lame after a 3-1 pitch in the bottom of the first inning. He completed the inning on just one more pitch, but Carpenter started warming up in the bullpen almost immediately and entered the game in the bottom of the second. His entrance further complicates things, to say the least.

"I think we know exactly what we're going to do [about Saturday's starter]," Amaro told reporters. "I just choose not to tell you." First of all, isn't it a little strange to use the terms "I think we know" and "exactly what we're going to do" in the same sentence? Saying that you "think" you know what you're doing doesn't give a strong sense of confidence. For example, if you're in a cab and ask the driver if he knows how to get to the destination you've given him and he replies "I think I know," you're probably a little concerned. If he responds that he knows "exactly" where you're going, you likely sit back and enjoy the ride as much as anybody can enjoy a cab ride. The second thing that stands out is that if the move were to definitely be coming from within the organization, Amaro would have no reason other than smugness not to say who the Phillies would be recalling or plugging into that spot in the rotation. If he hasn't acquired the pitcher yet, then he would have every reason not to say "exactly" what they were going to do, because he's not sure if they can even do whatever the "exactly" is.

So with all of Amaro's brain-teasing, it sends inquiring minds like mine on a hunt for possibilities. Kendrick's spot comes up Saturday, which means that to be on the exact schedule, the incoming starter would have started last night. That brings up the name of Ben Sheets, who started for Oakland last night and threw a gem against Boston, but got a no-decision in a 2-1 loss to the Red Sox. With the fact that he pitched well and got a no-decision, Sheets would be a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation; just ask Roy Halladay. It's conceivable that a starter who pitched this past Saturday or Sunday could also start against the Rockies Saturday without disrupting his schedule, so that opens some more doors.

Here's a look at some of the pitchers who have been on the trade market and when they last pitched:

Ben Sheets (Oakland) - Monday
Roy Oswalt (Houston) - Sunday
Fausto Carmona (Cleveland) - Saturday
Jeremy Guthrie (Baltimore) - Saturday
Dan Haren (Arizona) - Friday
Jake Westbrook (Cleveland) - Friday
Ted Lilly (Chicago Cubs) - Friday (against the Phillies)

Basically, any of these guys would potentially be able to start Saturday against the Rockies, but Lilly, Haren and Westbrook would also be scheduled to start either Wednesday or Thursday of this week, so something would have to happen fast if it's any of those guys. The Phillies have been heavily scouting the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, who Guthrie pitched against on Saturday and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings to in a no-decision. The outing lowered Guthrie's ERA from 4.77 to 4.58 on the season, but Charlie Kerfeld, who was heading up the scouting contingent in Baltimore followed Toronto after the game. While the Blue Jays have a number of pitchers on the market, they're relievers, which isn't to say that the Phillies don't have any interest in them, because they do, but they won't help for Saturday's start.

The Phillies also had scouts on hand for Sheets' start last night and have been known to be scouting the Indians pretty heavily, with an eye toward Carmona and Westbrook.

Amaro did allow that if the starter comes from within the organization, it would be either Carpenter, J.A. Happ - who is pitching Tuesday for Lehigh Valley - or Nelson Figueroa, who hasn't yet cleared waivers. If Happ pitches deep into his game with Lehigh Valley, that would seem to scratch him from the list of potentials and with the Phillies going to Carpenter in long relief, he's out of the running as well. Perhaps that's why Amaro said that while an internal starter is possible, "we have other balls in the air."

Amaro did just enough to send us reporter/detective types scrambling for possibilities. Unfortunately, he didn't really give us enough to go on to figure out exactly which way he's headed or just how the Phillies can come up with an able-bodied starter for Saturday's game at Citizens Bank Park. Instead, we're left with a brain teaser from the guy with the smug little smile, who has us waiting on his next clues.



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