Saturday, June 6, 2009

Where Do the Phillies Go To Replace Myers?

The Phillies' recent loss of Brett Myers to hip surgery leaves the defending World Series champions without their number two starting pitcher, the man who has taken the ball the last three opening days for the Phils.

In his stead, 23-year old fireballing lefty Antonio Bastardo shut down the Padres on Tuesday evening at Petco Park. Bastardo, who featured his fastball almost exclusively, earned himself a second start, this one scheduled for the nationally televised ESPN game against the Dodgers on Sunday evening in Chavez Ravine.

Bastardo may prove to be the next incarnation of Fernando Valenzuela or Dontrelle Willis, a lefthander who takes the league by storm in his first go-round with the big boys. More than likely though, Bastardo will look like what he actually is- a 23- year old that had started only one game above the AA level that currently possesses only one major league ready pitch (fastball).

If that happens, and it almost certainly will, the Phillies will need a pitcher. In previous years the Phils have acquired the likes of Kyle Lohse and Joe Blanton, middle of the rotation guys who can help you out in a stretch drive. But with Myers out, the Phils need a legitimate stud to back up Kid Cole at the top of the rotation. But who?

Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, as connected a baseball man as any, recently spoke with GM Ruben Amaro and offered a primer on who the champs might target. The sexiest names on the list are Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt.

My feelings on the candidates mentioned so far vary. Peavy is young and obviously very good, but his contract could become an albatross, and he doesn't seem very excited by the prospects of leaving San Diego. He appears to be a mid-western or West Coast type of guy, one that wouldn't jive very well with the big cities and bright lights seen in Philadelphia, New York or Boston.

Roy Oswalt is the name that excites me the most. He's still relatively young (turns 32 in August), has a more managable contract than Peavy, and has taken the ball and succeeded in big games (Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS anyone?). Like Peavy, he has a full no-trade clause, but seems more inclined to waive his to go to a contender.

Eric Bedard. No. He's lefthanded, which the Phils already have three of in the rotation, and by many accounts, he's, um, a jerk, who's act won't fly too well in Philadelphia.

Cliff Lee might be the most enigmatic name on the list. Do you think he's the guy that went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in winning the AL Cy Young last year, or the guy with a 6.29 ERA in 2007? So far this year he holds an ERA under 3.00, but he has also allowed 95 hits in 82 innings. Maybe a new team in a new league reignites his dominance. Or maybe going to a team in a hitters park gets him derailed. I don't think anyone can confidently say one way or the other.

With the Mets playing poorly (swept in Pittsburgh this week) and dealing with issues from hamstring tears to bone chips to horrible intestinal viruses, the Phillies do have some time to figure out how to address their pitching issues. However, July 31 comes sooner than you think, especially as other teams experience injuries and attempt to land a front of the rotation pitcher.

The injury to Brett Myers presents new GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. with his first major in-season test. He's saying all the right things, and doing his due dilligence while looking to add a pitcher. However, his action, or lack thereof, could prove to be the difference between this Phillies team watching the postseason on TV or making its second straight march down Broad Street with a big, shiny trophy in tow.

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