A small bit of news yesterday as Phillies general manager said that lefthander Mike Zagurski is behind a bit in his rehab, and that his status for Opening Day is now questionable. Zagurski was expected to be one of a handful of candidates to replace J.C. Romero in the bullpen during his 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. I was asked yesterday on Daily News Live to handicap the Phillies' options, so I figured I would expand on that here.
We're assuming that the Phillies keep 12 pitchers, five of them starters:
First, the definites: Closer Brad Lidge, right-handed set-up man Ryan Madson, lefthander Scott Eyre, and righthander Chad Durbin are all in.
That leaves three open spots. For the sake of the argument, let's assume the Phillies don't add another reliever, and Clay Condrey gets a deinite spot. That leaves two open spots. Here are the candidates:
1) Clay Condrey, RHP - Provided the Phillies don't add another free agent arm, it would seem that Condrey has a spot locked up. He entered spring training last year as a question mark to even make the squad, but he spent all season on the roster and ended up posting a respectable 3.26 ERA in 69.0 innings. That said, opponents hit .302 against him, with six home runs. Condrey was solid in September, allowing just one earned run in his final 8 2/3 innings of the season.
2) Chan Ho Park, RHP - Park wants to compete for the final spot in the Phillies rotation. But right now, we're projecting him as more of an insurance policy in case young lefthander J.A. Happ or young righthander Kyle Kendrick rattle the Phillies confidence in them in spring training. Last season was Park's first as a full-time reliever, although he did pitch well in five spot starts. As a reliever, he posted a 3.84 ERA in 70 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .274 off of him, compared to just .234 in his five starts. The Phillies seem sincere in their desire to give Park an opportunity to start. But if Park does indeed win the job, the Phillies will likely be forced to bring in another veteran arm.
3) Kyle Kendrick, RHP - Kendrick lost his spot in the rotation late last season. Whether he is able to win it back depends in large part on his progress in developing a secondary pitch beyond his go-to sinker. Phils GM Ruben Amaro has mentioned Kendrick's name as a possible bullpen fit if he does not win the No. 5 job, but Kendrick has never done it before.
4) J.A. Happ, LHP - He made the postseason roster as a reliever last season and pitched fairly well in his lone appearance in the NLCS. That said, the Phillies view him as a starter.
5) Carlos Carrasco, RHP - David Price, Jonathon Pappelbon, Joba Chamberlain. All were top-shelf starting pitching prospects who broke into the big leagues as relievers. While it may not be ideal, it wouldn't be the biggest shock in the world if Carrasco winds up breaking onto the Phillies in such a manner. He'll compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, but we're projecting him as a definite underdog behind Kendrick, Happ and Park.
6) Veteran to be named later - Last season, the Phillies added righthander Rudy Seanez at the beginning of the regular season. Seanez went on to spend the entire year in the club's bullpen. If Park ends up winning a starting job, the Phillies will be in the market for another Seanez. Who knows. It may even be Seanez himself.
Here's our coverage from today's paper, where we get Amaro's thoughts on Ryan Howard's contract situation.