Tonight, Kyle Kendrick makes his sixth start of the season. The first five, with the exception of one very good outing in Atlanta, have been disasters.
So why are the Phillies sticking with him? Well, for one, pitching coach Rich Dubee believes he solved one important thing in the past week -- Kendrick was throwing across his body at times, which caused mechanical problems.
And more importantly, there really isn't anyone else within the organization.
"Do you have somebody down in Lehigh or somebody in the free-agent market who you think is better right now?" Dubee asked a reporter earlier in the week.
True. Nelson Figueroa is an option, but not an ideal one. He's been useful (when used correctly) in the bullpen. The Phillies prefer that role for Figueroa.
At triple-A Lehigh Valley, the candidates are less than thrilling. Andrew Carpenter has struggled since going down, with a 1.57 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings. Ryan Vogelsong has a strikeout to walk ratio of 24/20 in 26 innings. Joe Savery has a 5.57 ERA and as many walks as strikeouts in 21 innings. OK, you get the picture...
But if history tells us anything, the Phillies may seek a replacement for Kendrick relatively soon if his struggles continue.
Remember Chan Ho Park? Of course you do. But you remember Chan Ho Park the reliever. Chan Ho Park the fifth starter made seven starts at the beginning of the 2009 season. His numbers as a starter looked like this:
1-1, 33 1/3 IP, 41 H, 17 BB, 21 K, 5 HR, .311 oBA
Through five starts, Kendrick's stat line is similar:
0-1, 23 2/3 IP, 29 H, 10 BB, 12 K, 6 HR, .302 oBA
Park appeared as a reliever once before making his first start April 12. The plug was pulled after Park's start May 17 in which he allowed five runs to Washington in 1 1/3 innings.
It was easier in 2009, though. The Phillies had J.A. Happ, who had battled Park in spring training for the fifth starter's spot and pitched decently. Happ was in the bullpen already and served as a logical candidate to replace Park.
In 2010, that logical candidate does not exist. Does that mean Kendrick has some leash left? Probably. But there will reach a point, just as there was with Park in 2009, when the Phillies decide they cannot simply keep running Kendrick out there -- should his performance trend continue.
If Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton can become consistent enough, that gives the Phillies a good amount of security.
But as Jamie Moyer has said, the big innings are killing him this season. Happ will not pitch for the Phillies in May and his return is unknown.
All of that makes the decision on Kendrick even more important.