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

Nationals’ Soto youngest ever to win NL batting crown

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Juan Soto became the National League’s youngest batting champion, Trea Turner hit a grand slam and drove in seven runs, and the Washington Nationals closed out the season with a 15-5 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday.

Soto walked and singled before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the third inning, elevating his average to .351 and sealing the NL lead in the category during this pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

The 21-year-old Soto surpassed Brooklyn’s Pete Reiser for the youngest ever to take a batting crown. Reiser was 22 when he ended the 1941 season hitting a league-leading .343.

“For me, it doesn’t matter the age,” Soto said with a smile when informed of the feat’s historical significance. “If you deserve it, you deserve it.”

Soto held off Atlanta teammates Freddie Freeman (.341) and Marcell Ozuna (.338) and also finished 2020 with the major league-lead in on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.695).

Yan Gomes homered for Washington, which won seven of its last nine and closed the season on a three-game winning streak and caught the Mets in the NL East standings.

“These guys don’t quit,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “They play hard every day and you saw what they did the last nine games. I’m proud of them hanging in there.”

The Nationals finished 26-34 a year after winning their first World Series. The Nationals’ .433 winning percentage in the truncated season was the lowest for a defending champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins went 54-108 (.333).

New York slipped from 86-76 last season and third place in the NL East to 26-34 and tied for fourth in manager Luis Rojas’ first season. The Mets still held slim playoff hopes entering Saturday before dropping three in a row, and they would have secured a wild card had they won those games because of three-game slides by Philadelphia and San Francisco to end the season.

“We didn’t get it done,” Rojas said. “We needed to do it, and we didn’t do it. It was definitely all on us. It makes it a little bit more frustrating just seeing that part happened the way we wanted, but we didn’t execute what we needed to do.”

Pete Alonso homered twice for New York and finished with 16 after clubbing a rookie-record 53 last season. Guillermo Heredia added a solo shot for the Mets.

Washington right-hander Austin Voth (2-5) needed 36 pitches to escape the first but made it through five innings to close his season with back-to-back victories. Voth allowed four runs while striking out four.

The Nationals chased Mets starter Seth Lugo after 1 1/3 innings. Lugo (3-4) allowed six runs on five hits and two walks.

With Washington already leading 7-3, Turner busted the game open with a third-inning grand slam off reliever Steven Matz. It was Washington’s first grand slam of the season.

KENDRICK’S FUTURE

Washington and INF Howie Kendrick have a mutual option for 2021, and he has at least one prominent figure hopeful for his return.

“I’m holding onto his leg,” Martinez said. “He’s got a lot of discussions to have with his family and I told him we’ll stay in touch as we always do and we’ll see where he’s at.”

The 37-year-old Kendrick hit .275 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games, and ended the season on the injured list with a left hamstring strain.

NATS AWARDS

Soto was named Washington’s player of the year and RHP Max Scherzer (5-4, 3.74 ERA) earned the team’s pitcher of the year award in voting by local media. LHP Sean Doolittle won his third consecutive Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: New York placed RHP Erasmo Ramirez (right groin tightness) on the injured list. Ramirez was 0-0 with an 0.63 ERA in six games. The Mets recalled RHP Corey Oswalt.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles was hit by a pitch in the second inning and was lifted for a defensive replacement in the third.

UP NEXT

Mets: New York opens its 2021 spring training schedule on Feb. 27 against Miami in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Nationals: Washington takes on Houston on Feb. 27 in West Palm Beach, Florida, in its scheduled 2021 spring training debut.