Figueroa starts Saturday, then what?

PHOENIX -- Nelson Figueroa will make his first start for the Phillies since Aug. 31, 2001 on Saturday night against the Diamondbacks.

Will it be his final appearance as a member of the team?

Righthander Andrew Carpenter started Friday night for triple-A Lehigh Valley and pitched only two innings. He was taken out of the game after throwing just 40 pitches and is not injured. When asked if there was a reason why Carpenter was removed, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said there was. But he declined to elaborate.

Here's the thinking: After Figueroa pitches Saturday night, the Phillies do not need a fifth starter until May 4 against St. Louis. All indications are that righthander Joe Blanton (strained left oblique) will be ready to return to the majors by then.

Figueroa will stretch himself out to start Saturday and probably won't be available in the bullpen for a few days. And given the Phillies won't need him to start another game, they could be inclined to replace Figueroa with someone like Carpenter, who would be available in the bullpen as a long man.

Problem is, Figueroa is out of options, so he will need to be designated for assignment and clear waivers to stay in the organization. If his start Saturday night is halfway decent, Figueroa could be an attractive option to another team.

But the Phillies could be willing to part with Figueroa, who is no more than a serviceable long man, at this point.

The Phillies' pitching staff is beginning to get crowded. When Blanton and Brad Lidge return to the active roster, two spots will need to be cleared. Figueroa probably doesn't survive that. So the Phillies may expedite the process by designating him for assignment after Saturday's game.

We'll see.