We have plenty to evaluate over the next 48 hours. The Phillies are likely huddling right now, hashing out some of the remaining questions regarding the composition of their 25-man roster. Rosters are not due until Wednesday morning, but we should have a pretty good idea by the time they take the field for their workout. Below is our projected 25-man roster and projected postseason rotation, followed by how we arrived at this conclusion:
The Rotation: Game 1 - LHP Cliff Lee vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez; Game 2 - LHP Cole Hamels vs. RHP Aaron Cook; Game 3 -RHP Joe Blanton at RHP Jason Marquis; Game 4 - LHP J.A. Happ at TBA
The Regulars: SS Jimmy Rollins, CF Shane Victorino, 2B Chase Utley, 1B Ryan Howard, LF Raul Ibanez, RF Jayson Werth, 3B Pedro Feliz, C Carlos Ruiz
The Bench: INF Miguel Cairo, UTIL Eric Bruntlett, OF Ben Francisco, C Paul Bako, OF Matt Stairs, INF Greg Dobbs
The Bullpen: RHP Ryan Madson, RHP Brad Lidge, RHP Brett Myers, LHP Scott Eyre, RHP Clay Condrey, RHP Tyler Walker, RHP Pedro Martinez
1. Who will be the odd man out of the rotation?
The likely scenario: We might not be having this conversation if Martinez hadn't strained his neck against the Braves on Sept. 19. He had allowed just four runs on on 18 hits in 21 2/3 innings in his previous three starts. But since Sept. 13, he has started just two games, throwing 56 pitches against the Braves on Sept. 19 and then 84 pitches against the Astros on Sept. 30. While Blanton has struggled in his last two starts, there is no question about his health. I expect Blanton to start Game 3 or 4 in Colorado and Martinez to throw a simulated game tomorrow at the Phillies' work-out, where he will be able to face the team's hitters. Then, I expect the Phillies to have him ready to pitch in a relief role, either in Game 3 or Game 4. I know logic says to split up the lefties, but I'm putting Happ in Game 3
A possible scenario: The Phillies feel Martinez is best suited to start Game 3 or 4, in which case they reverse roles and have Blanton ready to pitch in relief.
Don't count it out: Martinez pitching in relief. The Phillies want Happ in the rotation against the Rockies, who are much better against righties than lefties. I just don't see him being left out of the rotation. But what I can see is Martinez coming in to pitch the eighth inning of a game, even if it is only to face a couple of batters. True, he has suffered most of his damage this season in the first inning. But he is a red light player - when the red light on the camera blinks on, he steps up his game. He is an experienced postseason player. The cream rises to the top in the postseason. Don't be surprised if Martinez winds up pitching in a pivotal relief situation.
2. Who will start game one?
The likely scenario: I'm swimming upstream here, but I see no reason why the Phillies wouldn't give the ball to Cliff Lee in Game 1. Sure, he's had mixed results in his last seven starts, going 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA since putting together a 0.68 ERA in his first five starts as a Phillie. But Lee dominated the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park back on Aug. 6, allowing one run on six hits and striking out nine in seven innings of a 3-1 victory. Furthermore, he is 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA in five starts at home. Most importantly, he is on schedule to pitch Game 1 on five days rest, when he is 32-13 with a 3.50 ERA and .256 BAA in his career (compared with 8-9 with a 4.40 ERA and .260 BAA on six or more days rest, which he would be on for Game 2).
The possible scenario: A lot of people think that because the Phillies limited Cole Hamels to three innings on Saturday, they are trying to turn him around to start Game 1. It makes some sense. After all, Hamels went 3-0 in Game 1's last postseason. Other than that, though, there is no real incentive for the Phillies to rush Hamels back. He'll be on his normal turn, which is when he contends - and statistics prove - he pitches his best, for Game 2. Besides, both Game 1 and Game 2 starters will be available to pitch Game 5 on full rest.
Don't count it out: Charlie Manuel said yesterday that he thinks J.A. Happ has the ability to start one of the first two games. But he could also use another lefty out of the bullpen, particularly in whatever game Joe Blanton or Pedro Martinez pitch. As good as Blanton was this season, going 9-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 21 starts from May 26 to Sept. 22, he has allowed 10 runs in his last two starts and has completed more than six innings in just one of his last six starts. So try this scenario on for size: Happ pitches Game 2 - he would be on three days rest, but threw just 39 pitches Sunday - then is available to pitch out of the bullpen in Game 4 if he is needed. Happ usually throws his side session on the third day after he pitches. If he starts Game 2, his normal side day would be Sunday, which is Game 4. If that is an elimination game, and the Phillies need someone to pitch the seventh and eighth innings after Blanton leaves, you can bet Happ would be able to do it.
3. What options are the Phillies looking at for their roster?
Position locks (13): Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Paul Bako, Eric Bruntlett, Ben Francisco.
Pitching locks (9): Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, Brett Myers, Brad Lidge, Pedro Martinez
On the bubble (6): Clay Condrey, Tyler Walker, Chad Durbin, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Miguel Cairo
So we have six players fighting for three spots. As good as Kendrick has pitched down the stretch, there simply isn't a need for him in a five-game series, particularly with either Blanton or Martinez being available for long relief. So count him out, at least for the first round.
Now, here's a look at the five other players vying for the final three spots:
Chad Durbin, RHP: There might not be a hotter reliever on the team. In his last six outings dating back to Sept. 22, Durbin has thrown seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, five walks and five strikeouts. Since Sept 1, he has allowed three earned runs in 15 2/3 innings while stranding both of the runners he inherited, although he has walked 11 during that stretch. In the first five months of the season, however, he posted a 5.17 ERA, allowing 103 hits and walks in 54.0 innings. Durbin faced the Rockies twice in April, allowing three runs in one inning on April 10 and no runs in two innings on April 12. Lefties are 25-for-112 (.223) with four home runs and four doubles off of him. Righties are 31-for-142 (.218) with four home runs, eight doubles and one triple. At Coors Field in his career, Durbin has allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Tyler Walker, RHP: One of the unheralded stars of the bullpen for much of the second half of the season, Walker hit a rough patch in late September, allowing four runs in back-to-back games against the Brewers and Astros without recording an out. But those two outings came at the end of a stretch in which he pitched in seven games in 12 days and warmed up several other times without appearing. In his last two outings of the season, he pitched three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two while walking none. In 32 appearances this seaosn, with a 3.06 ERA, he has walked more than one batter just twice and overall has allowed just nine walks in 35 1/3 innings. Walker pitched one scoreless inning against the Rockies on Aug. 4. Lefties are 11/48 (.229) with one home run and one double off Walker. Righties are hitting .230 against him. Walker has had the most experience at Coors Field thanks to his time with the Giants. He is 3-0 in 18 games, allowing five runs in 18 innings (2.50 ERA).
Clay Condrey, RHP: Condrey has not allowed an earned run since missing close to two months with a strained oblique. In nine outings since his return on Sept. 9, he has allowed two runs on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts in five innings. In fact, if you take away his last two outings before going on the disabled list in late June (he allowed six earned runs while recording just one out), he has a 1.72 ERA in 43 appearances this season. Four of the 12 runners he has inherited during that stretch have scored. Condrey pitched two scoreless innings against the Rockies in two appearances on April 10 and 12. Lefties are hitting 10-for-58 (.172) with one home run and three doubles off of him. Righties are 27-for-101 (.267) with three home runs, one double and one triple. In his career at Coors Field, Condrey has allowed seven runs in seven innings
Antonio Bastardo, LHP: Bastardo is the wild card, particularly since lefthander J.C. Romero is done for the season. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever in Scott Eyre - Jack Taschner and Sergio Escalona are not options. While Bastardo throws hard and had some success in his first two spot starts of the season, he has just one relief appearance since being recalled. Manuel said yesterday he would be uncomfortable throwing an inexperienced pitcher like Bastardo in a big moment in the game. But do they have another option? This is likely one of the biggest debates going on right now.
Miguel Cairo, INF: We laid out Cairo's case for the postseason roster in today's paper. Since the Phillies recalled him in late August, he is 10-for-28 with five runs scored and two RBI. He is 20-for-61 in postseason play. He is also 2-for-3 against Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt and is 1-for-4 with two walks against lefty specialist Joe Beimel. Because Manuel will have to be creative with his bullpen, which means there could be many pitching changes, he could certainly use an extra bat on the bench, especially since Eric Bruntlett will likely be used in late game situations to replace Raul Ibanez, particularly in the big Coors Field outfield.
4. Who will make the roster?
The likely scenario: There isn't one, although more and more I think Cairo will have a spot on the team. And I think that Bastardo will be left off, simply because in a big spot against a left-handed hitter Manuel would rather call on an experienced righty than an inexperienced lefty. So Cairo is on and Bastardo and Kendrick are off. That leaves Walker, Condrey and Durbin vying for the final two bullpen spots. Walker makes it for several reasons: 1) He has been consistent for most of the season. 2) He has a ton of experience and has performed well at Coors Field. 3) With the exception of Helton, he has good career numbers against Rockies hitters (see numbers below).
This leaves Durbin and Condrey battling for the final spot, and I'm projecting Condrey to make it thanks to his good career numbers against the Rockies, as well as his relative success against Helton.
The possible scenario: Cairo is left off so the Phillies can accomodate Durbin, Condrey and Walker.
Don't count it out: The Phillies keep Bastardo so they have another lefty against the left-handed dominant Rockies.
Rockies hitters vs. Phillies bubble relievers:
Helton (Walker - 3/9, HR, 2 RBI; Durbin 0/0; Condrey 1/7, 2B, 3 RBI)
Stewart (Walker - 0/1; Durbin 0/2; Condrey 0/2)
Smith (Walker - 0/1; Durbin 0/1; Condrey 0/1
Hawpe (Walker - 1/7; Durbin 0/0; Condrey 0/4)
Gonzalez (Walker - 0/2; Durbin 0/0; Condrey 0/0)
Giambi (Walker - 0/1; Durbin - 6/15, 2 HR; Condrey 0/0)
Ianetta (Walker - 0/1; Durbin - 1/3; Condrey 0/4)
Barmes (Walker - 1/6; Durbin - 0/3; Condrey 1/1, 2B)
Tulowitzki (Walker - 0/2; Durbin 0/1; Condrey 0/3)
Atkins (Walker - 2/9; Durbin - 1/4; Condrey 2/4, HR, 2 RBI)
Sillborghs (Walker - 1/1; Durbin 2/2; Condrey 0/1)
Torrealba (Walker - 0/2; Durbin 0/0; Condrey 0/3)