The Week Ahead: Finding a role for Pedro

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They’re loving Cliff Lee in Philadelphia.

The left-hander acquired from the Indians two days before the trade deadline was dominant in his debut for the reigning champions on Friday in San Francisco, pitching a four-hitter. He’s scheduled to make his first start in the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday against the Rockies.

Meanwhile, Pedro Martinez continues to progress in the minor leagues, and may need just one more start before moving up to the big club.

So what will the Phillies do with their sudden wealth of arms?

Once Martinez is called up, he’ll be one of six pitchers – joining Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ — battling for five spots.

(Rodrigo Lopez, who was starting as well, moved to the bullpen after the Lee trade, and could end up back in the minors.)

Lee, Hamels, and Blanton are obviously locks to start. That leaves Martinez, Moyer and Happ fighting for two rotation spots.

It seems unlikely that Moyer would be happy in the pen. (Can you imagine trying to keep your 43-year-old body ready to pitch on a daily basis?) And Happ, though a youngster with bullpen experience, has really grown as a starter this season, going 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 starts.

So would the Phillies put Pedro in the bullpen? Not only does it seem possible. It seems prudent.

In his last minor league start, Martinez was solid for four innings. His fastball had movement and topped out at 93. But he tired in the fifth, giving up four runs.

He still has moments where his stuff is filthy, but he’s aging and prone to breaking down physically. The rotation is otherwise solid, while the bullpen, with Brad Lidge proving human even when healthy, has had its struggles.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pedro in the bullpen is a possibility, but unlikely.

The day the Phils acquired Lee, Amaro said that the club had not signed Martinez to be a reliever, though both parties were open to the possibility. Martinez’s contract includes a games-finished clause, according to a baseball source with knowledge of the deal. That clause indicates that the bullpen is not out of the question for him, although that role may not be plausible for a 37-year-old with a thick medical file.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee has said many times that he does not see Moyer as a reliever. That would leave Happ as the likely candidate.

Stay tuned.

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
*Brewers at Dodgers, Aug. 3-5: The Brewers are on the cusp of falling out of contention, while the Dodgers suddenly must worry about the health of their pitching staff.

*Rockies at Phillies, Aug. 4-6: The Rockies, entering the week on a four-game winning streak, are rewarded with outings against Jamie Moyer, J.A. Happ and Cliff Lee.

*Twins at Tigers, Aug. 7-9: Big chance for the Twins to gain some ground in the leaders of the tightly-packed AL Central. And they’ll miss newly-acquired Jarrod Washburn, too.

*Red Sox at Yankees, Aug. 6-9: The big boys square off, entering the week ½-game apart atop the AL East. And it’s a four-game series. Enjoy.

*Rangers at Angels, Aug. 7-9: The top two teams in the AL West do battle. Although the way the Angels have been playing, Texas might be better off chasing the wild card.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Cubs at Reds (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:08 p.m.: Red Sox at Rays (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rangers at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Red Sox at Yankees (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: Twins at Tigers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Red Sox at Yankees (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Matt Boyd earns No. 5 spot in Tigers’ starting rotation

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Matt Boyd has earned the No. 5 spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation, which means veteran Anibal Sanchez will pitch out of the bullpen, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reported on Wednesday.

Boyd, 26, pitched well this spring, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 21/0 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings. The lefty’s numbers in the majors last year weren’t nearly as good.

Sanchez, 33, is coming off of the worst season of his career and overall didn’t have a great spring, putting up a 5.03 ERA with a 20/4 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings. He came on strong at the end, however, tossing 14 consecutive scoreless innings. Manager Brad Ausmus didn’t rule out the possibility of Sanchez returning to the rotation at some point.

2017 Preview: Oakland Athletics

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The A’s aren’t gonna be that great this year, you guys. Sorry about that, but it’s true. In this it will be much like last year.

But it will look a bit different than last year at least. The A’s signed Santiago CasillaMatt JoyceTrevor Plouffe and Rajai Davis to a combined $33.25 million in contracts. I don’t see how that makes them appreciably better, but they will be different.

Khris Davis is the biggest offensive weapon. He hit 42 homers last year. Marcus Semien hit 27. And despite those heroics, the A’s offense was dead last in the AL in 2016. Rajai Davis gives them a stolen base threat and Joyce had nice resurgence in a little under 300 plate appearances, but I’m not seeing how this crew is all that better than they were. I mean, I’m sure Trevor Plouffe is a nice young man, but he’s not an offensive difference maker. The biggest chance for improvement comes from a full season of Ryon Healy, who hit quite well in 72 games last year. He was also moved off of third base for Plouffe and into the DH role at the age of 25, so temper your expectations.

Turning to the rotation, Sonny Gray at the top of things looked great heading into last season, but then he regressed badly, posting an unsightly 5.69 ERA in 2016. The A’s don’t need him to be be third in the Cy Young voting again, but they certainly need him to be their ace, and last year he wasn’t that. He’ll get a late start to the season due to a back injury — he may miss the entire first month — so things are already starting off badly.

After Gray comes Sean Manaea, who debuted last year and improved as the season went along. Kendall Graveman was serviceable last year, but he doesn’t miss many bats and it’s hard to pitch well in this league when you’re striking out as few batters as Graveman does. Jharel Cotton is an intriguing fourth starter. He came over in the Rich Hill deal and continued his excellent work in the minors before a late season callup. He is homer-prone but doesn’t walk a ton of guys. Definitely a guy to watch for the future. Andrew Triggs is a swingman who was pressed into the rotation late in the year. The A’s liked what they saw, but he has been a reliever all through the minors. Organizations tend to do that to guys who they don’t think will be decent starters, so I’m not sure what a few starts at the end of a season really mean.

If Gray bounces back to 2015 form, Graveman continues to be lucky on batted balls and the other guys deliver on their small-sample-size promise, hey, things aren’t too bad! But when was the last time that kind of five-for-five gamble paid off? Odds are on a nice surprise here, some stasis there and some regression and/or growing pains mixed in to form a pretty meh rotation. And given that the A’s defense was terrible last year and doesn’t look all that better this year, look for a lot of unearned runs. And earned runs that should’ve been unearned.

The bullpen features some notable names — Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, John Axford and Santiago Casilla have all been closers in the past — with Ryan DullLiam Hendriks and Raul Alcantara providing more depth. Dull is anything but his name. His excellent K/BB ratio last year — 73/15 in 74.1 innings — is downright interesting. These guys will inherit a lot of deficits instead of leads, however, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the A’s trade off a one or two of the ~Proven Closers~ at the deadline as well.

The A’s won 69 games last year. There are three contenders in the division who are significantly better and an Angels team that employs some considerably more talented players despite its obvious flaws. The A’s have just as many flaws and top out with Khris Davis, a rebound candidate starting the year on the DL as their best starter and some interesting young arms. All of that adds up to a long, long summer from where I’m sitting.

Prediction: Fifth place, American League West.