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

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

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In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.