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Phillies' SP solution at hand

6/30/2009

I've been dismissing the Giants' postseason chances because they're 15th in the National League in scoring, and nobody's been saying I'm all that wrong. But do you know who's 15th in the National League in ERA?
The Phillies, whose postseason chances nobody has been dismissing. Which suddenly strikes me as odd, since everybody knows that pitching is 75 percent of the game.

I kid, of course. And the Phillies aren't really that bad. There are actually four teams that have allowed more runs than the Phillies have allowed. And of course the Phillies play in a hitter's park; considering only road games, they're 10th in ERA and eighth in runs allowed. So we ignore their ERA and look at the other things, which suggest that the Phillies are more middle-of-the-road when it comes to run prevention

Still, this isn't great news:

    The Philadelphia Phillies, already hurting in the rotation, are down another starting pitcher.
    Left-hander Antonio Bastardo was placed on the 15-day disabled list late Monday night because of a strained shoulder.

    --snip--

    Bastardo is 2-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts and has lost his past three outings.

    The Phillies were off Monday and begin a three-game series in Atlanta on Tuesday. Right-hander Joe Blanton will start the opener, with left-hander Cole Hamels pitching on regular rest in Bastardo's spot Wednesday. Another left-hander, J.A. Happ, is listed as Thursday's starter against the Braves.

    Lefty reliever Sergio Escalona was brought up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Bastardo's spot on the roster.

    General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says the Phillies have been shopping for pitching help in recent weeks -- without much luck.

    "We have interest in a lot of guys and we have talked to several teams about pitching across the board," Amaro told MLB.com Monday. "But a lot of it just depends on which pitching becomes available. And if they do become available, if we have the right fits for them."

Escalona hasn't started a professional game since 2007, so he's probably not the answer in the No. 5 slot (in addition to the three healthy starters listed above, Jamie Moyer's still in the rotation). Not that the Phillies will really miss Bastardo. Since his impressive debut, he's 1-3 with an 8.64 ERA. He was never the answer to the Phillies' problem.
This subject came up during the spring when the Phillies needed a starter -- and Bastardo got the call -- and my answer today is the same as then: Carlos Carrasco. At the time, he had solid peripherals but a terrible ERA. Today, his peripherals are still solid -- better than solid, really -- and he's got his ERA down to 4.92. And Carrasco's not some Triple-A veteran; he just turned 22 this spring, and was ranked by Baseball America as the Phillies' No. 2 prospect.

Really, it's sort of amazing that the Phillies have left Carrasco in Triple-A as long as they have, considering their obvious need for a decent starting pitcher all season. Sure, they can recycle Kyle Kendrick or Gustavo Chacin or Rodrigo Lopez. But what's the upside for one of those guys? League-average, at best? Carrasco's got a real shot at winning six or seven games in the second half, and he's apparently got little to prove or learn in the International League.