David Buchanan impresses during Phillies' win over Astros
Cliff Lee’s locker stall in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park was empty on Wednesday afternoon.
The injured pitched had already packed his things and gone home. The Phillies have not confirmed if Lee had an MRI, or when he will have the testing done, but since the soon-to-be 36-year-old pitcher’s season is over, there apparently isn’t any rush.
Lee is one of two proven big league pitchers under contract with the Phillies for the 2015 season, along with Cole Hamels. Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are free agents; A.J. Burnett, who mulled retirement for the majority of last winter, has reportedly been leaning that way again following this year, despite a possible $12.75 million payday if he pitches next season.
In the minor leagues, one pitcher’s arrival at Double-A (first-round pick Aaron Nola) and another’s return from a near-two month mental break (former first round pick Jesse Biddle) on Wednesday night qualified as encouraging developments in a farm system thin on starting pitching.
The Phillies are going to need to sign a few starting pitchers this winter, but the 25-year-old righthander who took the mound at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday is in a perfect place to shape his own future with the team.
David Buchanan, summoned from Triple-A to assume Lee’s spot in the rotation for the second time this year, held Houston to two runs over his first six innings as the Phillies rolled to a 10-3 victory.
Buchanan is 6-5 with a 4.39 ERA in 11 starts this season.
It’s certainly not enough to guarantee him a spot in the 2015 rotation. But given the aforementioned dearth of pitching in the organization, Buchanan can continue to audition for the role in the season’s final eight weeks.
"I haven’t thought about that," Buchanan said of pitching for a job in 2015. "Every time I go out there, I take it as a chance for me to go out and help this team win a game. So every five days, if I keep getting the baseball, that’s all I’m going to worry about. That start. Taking it pitch by pitch. Obviously I’d be more than happy to stay here as long as they want me here."
Buchanan allowed three runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings on Wednesday, striking out five while walking none. He has allowed three runs or fewer in 9 of his 11 starts with the Phillies this season, and has pitched at least six innings in seven of those games.
"He gave us a chance to win," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He doesn’t get rattled out there. He hangs in there is what he does. He makes some pitches and before you know it, he does a good job for us and gives us a chance to win."
Buchanan’s first big league start in a month was buoyed by an offensive explosion from his teammates.
The Phillies batted around in the first inning, scoring five times. Ryan Howard’s one-out, two-run single gave the Phillies their first lead of the night and Buchanan capped the inning with his first major league hit, a run-scoring single to right-center.
Buchanan also made the inning’s last out when he tried to advance from first to second when the throw from the outfield went to third base. He was ruled out - and then ruled out after a 3-minute, 12-second review, too.
"I was safe," Buchanan said. "I did that in spring training, too. And had the same result, I got thrown out. I think from now on I’m just going to stay at first base."
Chase Utley tacked three more runs to the home half of the scoreboard when he ripped his 10th home run of the season, a three-run blast to right, in the fourth inning. Utley, who entered the night with one hit ins his last 20 at-bats, was 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored on Wednesday.
Howard and Jimmy Rollins also had two hits. Ben Revere topped them all: the leadoff hitter went 4-for-5, barely missing a chance for an inside-the-park home run in his fifth and final at-bat in the eighth, when Houston center fielder Jake Marisnick dived and missed catching a ball near the warning track in left-center.
Revere is hitting .309 on the season, sixth best in the National League.
"The whole offense has been hitting the ball really good," Revere said. "It was a good, all-around team win."
WAIVER WATCH: With the July 31 trade deadline passed, major league players can still be traded this month through the waiver process. Nearly every big-salaried played in baseball is placed on waivers in August as a procedural move, just to allow teams the flexibility of moving players.
On Wednesday, FoxSports.com reported that both Cole Hamels and Marlon Byrd were claimed off waivers, while closer Jonathan Papelbon cleared waivers.
It’s not surprising Hamels was claimed by an unnamed team: he’s owed $90 million over the next four years and has been one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball over the last four years. His talent and salary make him as or more attractive as available free agents arms this winter.
But the Phillies do not have any plans to trade the 30-year-old. Byrd is a different story.
Byrd, who turns 37 this month, is owed $8 million next year and has a vesting option for $8 million in 2016, too. The Phillies tried to trade him before last weeks’ deadline.
If the team that claimed Byrd comes forth with an attractive deal, the Phils can work out a trade. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who traded for Byrd last summer, could have real interest with reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen recently sidelined with an injury.
By clearing waivers, Papelbon can be dealt to any team. But teams in need of closers made moves for other, cheaper options in the weeks before the July 31 deadline and Papelbon has said he would not waive his no-trade clause unless his new team planned on using him as a closer.