Three Thoughts: Madson, Valdez, triple-A rotation

Wilson Valdez is 9 for 17 in Grapefruit League play. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cole Hamels takes the mound for his third start of the spring this afternoon as the Baltimore Orioles come to town. Until then, three thoughts to hold you over this morning...

1. The Brad Lidge-Ryan Madson dynamic will be one of the more interesting things to watch in 2011. It's a story that has gotten almost no attention this spring. But both setup man and closer could (and likely will) be free agents after this season. I wrote about Madson in today's Inquirer and the 30-year-old righthander is convinced he finally has what he needs to be a closer. No one has ever doubted Madson's stuff, but he has yet to master the mental aspect.

The most interesting thing I had to leave out of the story for space was touched upon by Bill Baer over at Crashburn Alley:

The reality is that Madson, in the eighth, tends to face the heavy-hitters. In 2010, the opposing 3-6 hitters in the batting order accounted for 48 percent of all batters faced by Madson while the bottom of the order accounted for 25 percent. Lidge faced the 3-6 hitters 39 percent of the time and the 7-9 hitters 36 percent.

Fascinating stuff. Lidge's fastball is in decline and he will turn 35 next winter. Madson's stuff is better than ever, but he has yet to show he can handle the ninth inning on a regular basis. The Phillies can probably only afford to give one of the pitchers closer's money.

2. Right now, Wilson Valdez would be the opening day second baseman. He's 9 for 17 in Grapefruit League play and a bunch of those singles have been swinging bunts. For better or worse, he is the best option the Phillies have should Chase Utley not be ready.

(An aside: We still don't have an update on Utley despite Ruben Amaro Jr. saying there should be one by the end of the weekend. We may not receive one today either. What does that tell you? Bad news.)

Valdez has played all over the field this spring and the one asset he does bring is defense. He will be completely capable at second. The offensive dropoff from Utley to Valdez is astronomical, of course. And with a lineup that could struggle to score, that is a major concern.

3. The IronPigs rotation should feature three guys who pitched against the Yankees on Monday. Vance Worley will be the ace of the staff and the spring hasn't been too kind to him. In six innings he has allowed 10 hits and only struck out one batter, but Worley is on the Phillies radar now and that's a long way from last spring.

Australian Drew Naylor has had an impressive spring and spent the whole season in double-A Reading last year. He should be in Lehigh Valley this season. He struck out three Yankees in 1 1/3 innings Monday.

Brian Bass was a minor-league free agent pickup and is being stretched out as a starter. He pitched a scoreless inning Monday.

Have a question? Send it to Matt Gelb's Mailbag.

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