As the Phillies prepare to narrow the roster to 25 players, no one should be feeling the pressure more than manager Charlie Manuel, who is about to make his first big decision under new boss Pat Gillick.
Charlie Manuel’s choices are as follows: Bring the best 25 players north to Philadelphia per the original plan, or cover his tail by playing politics, staying loyal to struggling veterans or one of the other tendencies winning teams do not do.
Manuel will be making more than one player unhappy. Ryan Franklin could be one of them. Hand picked by the man himself, Gillick thought he saw something in Franklin, who wore out his welcome in Gillick’s old stomping ground, Seattle. He signed a 1-year, $2.6 million deal with the Phillies, chump change for a free agent starter. He stands to earn more as a starter: a $150,000 performance bonus for 170 and 180 innings; $200,000 for 190, 200, 210 and 220 innings. If he pitches in relief, he receives $25,000 for 45, 50, 55 and 60 games and $50,000 for 65, 70 and 75 games.
Franklin was expected to round out the starting rotation unabated, but Gavin Floyd’s unexpected spring has changed that. Floyd is now a serious contender, and could push either Franklin or Ryan Madson into the bullpen.
It’s a shocking turn of events. For most of the winter, the Phillies have been talking up Madson’s long-delayed move to the starting rotation. It’s one of the stated reasons they traded for setup man Arthur Rhodes.
Now, is appears the Phillies have serious concerns with their bullpen after all. Their strategy had been to throw as much garbage on the wall to see what sticks, and none of it stuck.
Ricardo Rodriguez, acquired in the deal for Vicente Padilla, has not impressed. Robinson Tejeda and Eude Brito, expected to compete for spots in either the rotation or bullpen, missed most of camp because of the World Baseball Classic. Non-roster invitee Aquilino Lopez was traded yesterday for two low-level prospects. And Rule-5 pick Chris Booker has been hurt for most of the spring and will begin the season on the DL.
The rest of the veterans have pitched well, but officials and officials close to the team, like Dallas Green, are not confident they can hold the line.
The Phillies have not ruled out moving Madson back into the bullpen. Madson lowered his spring ERA to 1.84 yesterday by throwing six shutout innings against the Yankees.
He’s one of a handful of players that have been magnificent this spring. Floyd is 4-0 and leading the Grapefruit League in wins. The organization has always stood by Floyd when scouts around the league would not. Assistant GM Mike Arbuckle has led that charge to be patient and not overreact.
Franklin has also been solid. In 17 2-3 innings, he’s 2-1 with a 3.57 ERA. Like Madson, he has experience in the bullpen and would appear to be a good option for long relief, the only spot in the bullpen that is truly open.
Offensively, there are two or three candidates for the final bench spot, depending who you listen to. On XM radio yesterday, Gillick said Roberson will begin the season in Triple-A. Other reports say Roberson is still in the mix, along with Chris Coste and Tomas Perez, who cleared waivers two days ago.
Indeed, it's beginning to look like the Phillies will field a 33-year-old rookie.
I'm one to believe spring training matters a whole lot, and we're seeing why right now. The choices the Phillies are about to make are pretty big compared to other years.
The team should take the best players north. That means Coste, and that means Floyd. That does not mean Perez, and it does not mean Rodriguez.
A word on Floyd and one of the comments taken from the post below: "Floyd has been hyped for a couple of seasons now and flopped miserably when he was given his opportunity."
This is an exaggeration. The hype comes from being a first-round draft pick, fourth overall.
As for his opportunity, in his first start last season, he was excellent. In his next two starts, abysmal. Then, in order to make room when Vicente Padilla to come off the DL, Manuel turned Floyd into a reliever for the first time in his career. Even though everyone said Floyd can only work as a starter, he did it anyway. He was beyond terrible. Another failed bullpen outing later, they sent him to Triple-A a broken pitcher.
He never recovered. I don’t know the pitching coach at Scranton, but obviously the situation didn't resolve itself there. Coaches, and Floyd himself, pointed toward confidence issues.
Now, nearly a year later, it's beginning to look like the 23-year-old is pitching with confidence, recapturing his top prospect form. And just when he's on a roll, there is a chance he could be sent back to Triple-A with the dregs. I guarantee he would not pitch well there.
Keep this good thing going and insert that talent into the starting rotation. He will benefit more by sitting next to Jon Lieber on the bench than pitching to the retreads of Triple-A. To make room, push Franklin into the long-relief role, where his flyball tendencies will not hurt them.
File the Aquilino Lopez trade under the category of "Coaches know more than fans."
How else can you explain a pitcher getting dumped by Colorado and traded from a team with thin bullpen arms in the same year, when on the surface, his record doesn't look all that bad? The 31-year-old right-hander was traded yesterday for two prospects a day after he was reassigned Triple-A.
Pitchers with similar histories have been released from camps all week. The only difference here is the Phillies managed to pick up some low-level prospects. Perhaps one of them will pan out.