Roy Halladay has been called an animal, a machine, a mercenary, and any of a number of other cliches that refer to a pitcher's ability to chew up hitters and spit them out with ridiculous consistency. But as consistently dominant and durable as he has been over the past decade, he has never started more than three games in a season on short rest.
What does that mean? It means the Phillies are going to need a fifth starter for the 2010 regular season. If you have spent most of the previous month with a pulse, you realize that the two candidates to fill this job are Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer. If you happened to be out of town for the last month, perhaps visiting your therapist in Arizona, pick up a random Daily News and chances are you will find the nuts and bolts of the competition detailed within.
Really, not much has changed since the start of spring training. Over the past couple of days, manager Charlie Manuel has said repeatedly that he knows what kind of pitcher Kyle Kendrick is, and he knows what kind of pitcher Jamie Moyer is, and that their on-the-field results during their respective Grapefruit League starts wouldn't necessarily have much of a bearing on the pitcher who ultimately starts the season in the rotation. On one hand, that makes sense. Has Jamie Moyer really become a different pitcher after 22-plus years in the big leagues, the last three of which have come in Philadelphia? Is Kyle Kendrick's line after four meaningless exhibition games going to supercede the month he spent with the Phillies last season, or the year of development he enjoyed in the team's minor league system?
On the other hand. . .it's hard to believe that the Phillies are staging these spring games simply to provide us writers with material. Don't get me wrong - it would be a lovely gesture. But the older scribes tell me they just don't care that much about us. So the performances by Moyer and Kendrick in the Grapefruit League have to mean something, right?
Probably. But I think Rich Dubee was being honest when he said at the beginning of spring training that Kendrick would have to significantly out-pitch Moyer to win the job. You might look at Kendrick's line -- two runs allowed in 14 innings -- and argue that he has significantly out-pitched Moyer. But the way Dubee talked at the beginning of his spring, Kendrick would have had to show up seven-feet tall shooting balls of fire from his eyes and lightning from his arse to have a chance at making the Phillies rotation. And while he has been very good, I have yet to see any balls of fire at Bright House Field.
Kendrick looks very much like a pitcher who has established himself as a component of the Phillies' future. But Moyer has looked like Moyer -- in other words, he has looked like the same pitcher who received a two-year contract just last offseason. That contract will pay him $8 million this year. Hence, the fire/lightning requisite.
You might not like that. You might think that Kyle Kendrick has earned the spot in the rotation. And maybe he has. But starting 2010 with Moyer as a starter makes a heck of a lot of sense for a number of reasons:
1) If the Phillies decide to put Kendrick in the rotation, their next decision will involve Moyer's fate. Do they release him and eat the $8 million they owe him (or trade him and eat most of that money anyway?)? Or do they move him to the bullpen? With J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge likely to start the season on the disabled list, the Phillies would almost certainly choose to keep Moyer around. Because Romero and Lidge would not be taking up a roster spot, they would have room for him, as well as Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo.
But Moyer is not built to be a regular reliever. Sure, he pitched well out of the bullpen last season, but that was a special situation, where his appearances were carefully planned out to coincide with those of Pedro Martinez (and Martinez's just happened to coincide with storm systems that forced him from two outings). Just yesterday, Dubee and Manuel both said they did not envision Moyer as a guy who could pitch on back-to-back days, or in a situational role against left-handed hitters. So he wouldn't really have a role. With Lidge and Romero sidelined, there would be room for him. But once Lidge returns in early-to-mid-April, the Phillies would have to decide between keeping Moyer or keeping Rule 5 pick David Herndon, who has had an impressive spring. And even if they kept Moyer over Herndon, once Romero returns in mid-to-late-April, the Phillies would have to decide between keeping Moyer or Bastardo, their only true lefty reliever.
On the other hand, starting Kendrick in the bullpen would give the team more flexibility. Because he has two minor league options, the Phillies would have the option of sending him back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to clear up a roster spot for Lidge or Romero. With Moyer, they would not have that option.
2) So if the Phillies decide that Kendrick gives them a better rotation than Moyer, why not just release Moyer right away? Because the Phillies have very little starting pitching depth. That might not matter if Kendrick thrives in the rotation. But what if he struggles? After all, his last season as a full-time starter, he lost his job. Sure, he looks like a much different pitcher now. But remember how good Chan Ho Park looked last spring training?
If Kendrick struggles, and you've already released Moyer, you've eliminated the option of hoping that Moyer can re-discover the magic he had in 2008.
The more logical move would be to get a verdict on Moyer as early as possible. Best case scenario, he pitches like he did in '08, and Kendrick moves to the bullpen as a long reliever. Keep in mind this could also help the bullpen, which could always use another reliable arm.
Worst-case scenario, Moyer struggles in April, and the Phillies replace him with Kendrick. It would be much more difficult to do the other way around, especially because you don't want Kendrick looking over his shoulder as he pitches.
Just my two cents.
As you read earlier, Carlos Ruiz has been scratched from the line-up due to an illness. Nothing to be concerned about. Non-roster invitee Dane Sardinha will catch Cole Hamels.
. . .Brad Lidge is throwing in his second minor league game at 1 p.m. Ryan Madson is also scheduled to throw in that game.
. . .Roy Halladay will pitch in a minor league game on Thursday, thanks to the rotation jumbling requried by the rain-out of yesterday's minor league game.