When Ruben Amaro Jr. began to put the pricy pieces in place for what was to be the Phillies payroll in 2013, he put his faith (read: dollars) in four players.
He traded for and then signed Roy Halladay. He gave $100 million-plus contracts to Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Those four players - Halladay, Howard, Hamels and Lee – account for more than half of the team’s total payroll this season ($84.5 of $159 million).
Three weeks into the season, that investment hasn’t exactly paid off.
Hamels allowed only two runs but the Phils remain winless in his starts this season as the offense went for the third time in the last eight games in a 2-0 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Phillies (9-12) have lost six of their last nine games. They have been shut out in three of those games.
The Phils have scored a total of 25 runs in those nine games (an average of less than three per-game) and 18 of those runs were scored in three wins. The Phillies have scored seven runs in their last six losses.
The trio of Hamels, Halladay and Lee haven’t been awful, at least not since Halladay’s first two starts. They have a combined 3.21 ERA since Halladay’s turnaround.
The Phils have scored 15 runs in the last six starts made by Hamels, Halladay and Lee, which includes the eight-run outburst in support of Halladay on Friday.
Following Tuesday’s loss, the Phillies are 4-9 in the trio’s combined starts this season.
Howard has highlighted an offense that hasn't helped its pitchers. He has one home run in 79 plate appearances this season and no RBI in his last 11 games.
Howard entered the seaso averaging one home run ever 15.67 plate appearances in his career.
More in Wednesday's Daily News.
The Phillies lineup wasn't posted outside the home clubhouse door at Citizens Bank Park when the media entered around 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. When it was posted, one regular's absence stood out.
Chase Utley is not starting against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight.
Utley, of course, is coming off back-to-back seasons when he missed significant time with chronic knee pain. So the obvious question Charlie Manuel received about a half hour later: Utley is OK, right?
"Yeah," Manuel said. "There’s going to be another five days before we have an off day. Then after that there’s about 13 more days after that until we have one. I want to make sure that I can get him off his feet every now and then."
The Phils haven't had a day off since April 11. After Monday, a day off between series in New York and Cleveland, the Phillies play another 12 games in 12 days.
The next question: it doesn't have anything to do with Utley's uncharacteristic play this weekend (an error and forgettig how many outs there were), right?
"No," Manuel said. "He’s alright. He’ll work over everything. Just shut up, let him alone. He’s fine. He’ll get mad at me (for sitting him) and work."
So that's that. The Phillies lineup:
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Freddy Galvis, 2B
3. Michael Young, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. John Mayberry Jr., RF
6. Domonic Brown, LF
7. Ben Revere, CF
8. Erik Kratz, C
9. Cole Hamels, P
Speaking of Hamels, that's the name that came to mind for Manuel when asked if top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle reminded him of any particular pitcher he's seen over the years.
"He’s got a little bit of Hamels in him as far as the ball coming out of his hand an stuff," Manuel said. "But he’s a little bit bigger, stronger."
The 21-year-old Biddle was a hot name at the ballpark after striking out 16 and taking a perfect game into the seventh inning on Monday in Harrisburg. Biddle, the Phillies first-round pick in 2010, allowed one hit and two walks in seven inning to go along with his 16 punchouts.
It was his fourth start at Double-A. He's 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA for Double-A Reading.
The Phils are very likely in no rush to bring Biddle to the big leagues, of course. But in taking the comparison between him and Hamels another step: Hamels, also drafted out of high school, made just six starts above Class A Clearwater in his own development before making his major league debut at age 22.
Is it too early to consider Biddle the fast-track type?
"I think it’s a little premature, but we’re obviously going to keep our eyes on this an we’ll follow it very closely," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development. "I think you go in with all of these guys, as far as their development plans with the plan, and the players alter it good or bad. Sometimes their ability, their performance, it will make it go one way or the other. Nothing is in stone.
"He’s where he needs to be. He earned, after what he did in Clearwater last year, the right to go to Reading. So far he’s done a great job. It’s been a month. The weather is going to arm up, the hitters are going to catch up. I think that’s, that’s the way I look at it. He even said it last night – this is my kind of weather, the hitters don’t like hitting in this weather.
"We’re going to follow it very closely. Because he’s one of our best, if not our best. We all know that."
Chooch Watch: Carlos Ruiz will begin his official rehab assignment tonight in Clearwater.
Ruiz is also scheduled to play this week at Double-A Reading on Friday and Saturday. He is eligible to rejoin the Phils lineup on Sunday in New York.