I asked Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. yesterday whether the organization was still confident that Kris Benson would be able to help the team this season.
Here is what he had to say:
"We're hopeful. Things have been very slow with him. Obviously, he's had a couple of setbacks, which hurt us. But we still have to let it play out and see how it's going. He's back throwing off the mound again, which is a good sign, but he still has some fatigue in his groin and he's got to get himself healthy before we even really consider him being an option for us."
Benson is well behind schedule. He's still recovering from an injured groin, which followed a bout with biceps tendinitis. The Phillies initially thought he'd be ready to help the team sometime this month. Now, there's no telling when he might be ready to go.
Combine that situation with the fact that the Phillies have used more than five starting pitchers in each of the last 15 years, and the chances are good that the team will eventually find itself looking for help from its minor league system.
General manager Pat Gillick said a couple of weeks ago in Pittsburgh that if Benson didn't pan out, the Phils would likely look internally for pitching help should a need arise. The prospects of finding a starter via trade or the waiver wire simply aren't good.
So who will it be?
Lakewood right-hander Drew Naylor recently tossed a complete game two-hitter and struck out 12. He now leads all minor leaguers with 62 strikeouts. But he won't be the answer. Amaro said Naylor is "a ways away" as far as his MLB readiness goes.
One possibility is J.A. Happ, a lefty who is currently fourth in the minor leagues in strikeouts at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Happ pitched one game for the Phillies last season and was in major league camp this spring.
Antonio Bastardo and Carlos Carrasco are also options, though Carrasco has a better shot at this point. Carrasco made some headlines this spring with a couple of solid performances. He's had his ups and downs this year at Double A Reading, but right now is 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA.
Don't be too hard on J.C. Romero. He was bound to blow a game at some point.
Big series coming up with the Braves. The Phils finished under .500 on this most recent road trip and lost a series to a team many thought would be the worst in the NL heading into the season. But they can put that behind them with a strong showing against one of their chief competitors in the NL East. Keep in mind the Phils have lost three straight NL East series to start the season - one to Washington and two to New York.