The Phillies are in St. Louis right now. I'm sitting on a black recliner watching MSNBC. Paul Hagen is covering the Cardinals series, and the various subplots that are hovering around the Phillies. Number one thing I'm interested in? What will become of J.A. Happ, and how will he affect the Phillies starting rotation? In today's paper, we detailed what seems to be the growing sense that something is going to happen with the club's pitchers in the near future. Granted, there is still a chance that everything remains as is - Hamels, Blanton, Myers, Moyer, Kendrick - and Happ either remains with the team as a reliever or is sent back down to Lehigh Valley. But if that does happen, none of the Phillies' public comments or actions over the past week will make much sense.
Think about it: Pat Gillick said the team was on the verge of acquiring a starting pitcher yesterday. That means they obviously were planning on booting somebody from the rotation. Or at least temporarily replacing him. That's fact, at least if you take Gillick at his word on the scuttled trade. Even after the trade deadline passed and the Phillies were unable to pull off a deal, Gillick said the team was pondering an "adjustment" that would remove Happ from the bullpen. But there are only two options: Send Happ back to Lehigh Valley and let him start, or give him a start here at the big league level. Gillick indicated he was referring to the latter rather than the former.
Which leaves the question: who goes?
It isn't Cole Hamels, obviously. It's hard to believe it would be Jamie Moyer, who has been the team's most consistent pitcher the past month and shows no signs of slowing down. The obvious answer would be Brett Myers, but a club source yesterday said that wasn't an option. Not only have the Phillies spent so much time and energy convincing Myers that he is and can be a capable major league starter, but he has actually pitched relatively well in his first two starts since returning from the minors. In fact, in his most recent start, he was flat out dominant.
So it isn't Hamels, it isn't Moyer, and it isn't Myers.
That leaves Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton. Kendrick has pitched well all season, save for a couple of hiccups, and the Phillies seem to win every time he takes the mound. So he doesn't seem like he'd be an option at all.
So could it be Blanton, the man whom the team traded away a couple prospects for just a couple weeks ago? Or, take a deep breath, a six-man rotation for a couple of weeks?
Neith of them may make sense on the surface, but to play devil's advocate, you need to find a way to figure out what you have in Happ. If Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee look at their rotation and say: look, J.A. Happ might not be the answer. He might have just had a couple of good starts. But what if he is the legit No. 2/No. 3 starter the team has been searching for? Everything Manuel has said over the past week indicates he feels like he needs to bolster the rotation, or at least figure out what his best possible comination is for the stretch run. I can't count the number of times he has brought up the Mets' rotation, how Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey have both been outstanding behind John Maine and Johan Santana. He almost speaks with a bit of envy.
Even if the Phillies were to bounce a current starter to the bullpen, they could always bring him back if Happ falters. One thing is clear: the team did not promote him to be a reliever.
My head hurts now. . .
On to the trade deadline:
Jayson Stark thinks the Phillies, along with the rest of the NL East, were losers at the deadline.
Jon Heyman doesn't mention the Phillies, but says the Mets came up short.
Here are Fox Sports' thoughts.
Paul Hagen grades them all, and gives the Phillies a C.
Feel free to grade away. . .