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

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.