To many of us who follow and cover the Phillies, Pedro Martinez is a fifth starter, one who the club hopes will improve upon the production Jamie Moyer provided out of the slot. But to the rest of the country, he is still very much a gate-worthy superstar, something I realized today as I watched ESPN buzzing with coverage of his return. Looking around the press box, I see several name placards reserving seats for national media. The game will be nationally televised on the four-letter network. Should be an interesting evening. . .
A few quick thoughts before the clubhouse opened:
1) I was chatting with some fellow scribes today when the name Bill Hall arose in conversation. The Brewers designated the one-time 35-home-run-hitter for assignment today. He's a right-handed bat with some pop and some speed, something the team has been searching for. But I don't see him landing in Philly. First, Ben Francisco has been a valuable addition thus far, as he displayed last night with his game-winning home run in the top of the 12th. With Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs and Paul Bako all locked into spots on the bench, and with Jamie Moyer currently in purgatory, there isn't a whole lot of room for Hall. I know you'll point to Eric Bruntlett, but keep in mind that the Phillies need a player who is capable of playing an adequate defensive short stop. Hall has played short stop, but not since 2006, when he committed 17 errors at the position. Factor in his .201 average this season, the fact that he is a career .182 pinch-hitter with 42 strikeouts in 99 at-bats, and the fact that he has another year remaining on a four-year, $24 million deal, and I don't see it as a good fit.
2) The Cubs' current roster is 15-for-78 lifetime against Martinez. None of them have hit a home run. Alfonso Soriano is 7-for-43 off of him. Milton Bradley is 3-for-9. Derrek Lee is 0-for-3.
3) Watching Brad Lidge allow a game-tying run in the ninth for his seventh blown save last night, I couldn't help but think of the Phillies' series at Wrigley Field at the end of August last year. If you remember, the club's bullpen blew two straight late leads in the first two games of the series. In the first game, Ryan Madson allowed three runs without recording an out. From that game on, Madson posted a 0.63 ERA and struck out 18 in his final 14 appearances of the season after a come-to-Jesus talk from Charlie Manuel. I know there is a lot of hand-wringing right now about Lidge, and rightfully so. But I don't view this as a situation where removing Lidge as closer is an option. The Phillies need him to get hot, and the only hope he has of getting hot is staying in the game. Remember, they don't need him to finish the season with a sub-4.00 ERA. They just need him to find his groove at the right time. I know that sounds kind of hollow right now, but funny things happen in the bullpen, and the Phillies will just need to hope that something clicks in Lidge like it did in Madson.