The Phils are getting down to their final roster spots, and surprisingly they are leaning towards keeping former starting centerfielder Doug Glanville around as a sixth outfielder. He is having a good spring (.323 BA, 3 HR, 6 R, 5 RBI in 31 AB), but David Bell has been almost non-existent in the spring training lineup and when he's been in, he's been as bad (1-for-7) as he was in last year's brief (85-game) appearance. (I just heard that he is starting to field grounders and throw every third grounder to the mound. The rest he just tosses to the side.)
The Phils are considering sending 25-year-old, erstwhile third baseman Chase Utley (.311, 3 HR, 10 RBI in 45 AB) down to Triple-A for the proverbial more seasoning. The same goes for 23-year-old pitcher Ryan Madson. Oddly, manager Larry Bowa seems to agree with me that both should stay on the roster: "To me, you only have so many shots to go for it, and you take your best team."
The estimable GM Ed Wade has a different opinion:
"It remains a balancing act. Whether we're at the point where we should up-tempo some guys remains to be seen.
"Is development vs. the makeup of the big league club an overriding factor? No. Is it a factor? Yes."
To paraphrase Bill Paxton in Aliens, "In don't know if you've been keepin' up with current events, Bell is getting his A's kicked!" Apparently, the prospect of part-time fielder (at third or anywhere else) Shawn Wooten and super sub Tomas Perez filling in for Bell is okie dokie with Wade. Or does he plan to take Quad-A, 30-year-old journeyman Lou Collier north to play the hot corner in Bell's usual absence.
How much seasoning does Utley need? He's 25 and has a lefty bat that would complement Bell's righty one well even if Bell is healthy and playing well. The Twins jettisoned their All-Star catcher and installed a 20-year-old behind the plate. Of course, that 20-year-old, Joe Mauer, is considered the best prospect in baseball and the Twins were small-marketing the decision, but Mauer hasn't played one inning of major-league ball as yet. Utley played significant time last year, albeit at second base, not third, but Utley did play third exclusively throughout 2002 and into the Arizona Fall League as he was being groomed to replace Scot Rolen. Why are the Phils always so concerned about seasoning?
This is especially true of Madson. More from Bowa that shows he just doesnít get it:
"On pure stuff, Madson would make the team. But I understand the situation. He's one of our top guys. If he sits there not working, you're only hurting him.
"Do I want him? Yes. Do I want to hurt him? No. We have to look out for his best interests."
Why would spending the season in the pen hurt Madson? Thirty years or so ago Earl Weaver established that the best place for a starting pitcher to develop was long relief. The Phils have been trying to thrust starting pitching prospects into the rotation ever since Randy Lerch was a pup and aside from the current crop, they have almost to a man been complete failures. Again, take a look at the Twins. They would not have won the division last year had they not moved their best pitcher, Johan Santana, from the pen to the rotation.
The Phils have a couple of spots available in the pen. Madson (2.84 ERA this spring) is reportedly competing with Amaury Telemaco (1.08), David Coggin (0.00 in 10 IP), Bud Smith (7.36), and Geoff Geary (2.25). Telemaco is said to have the "inside track" possibly because he helped prop up the rotation as the Phils faded last year. Coggin and Smith are out of options, and the Phils broadcaster expressed the opinion that he would be claimed off of waivers if the Phils attempted to send him down. Given Coggin is a former first-rounder, the Phils don't want that to happen. Smith is a former Cardinal prospect who the Phils received in the Rolen-Polanco trade. Smith is actually a year younger and had some success in 2001 with the Cards whereas Coggin has yet to enjoy any real success in the majors in parts of three seasons.
So if I were a betting man, I'd put money on Coggin and Telelmanco filling out the staff. However, it won't be for the best interests of Madson. It'll be to spare the Phils the embarrassment of losing a former first-round pick.
And Utley will languish in Triple-A until Bell Vets Stadium-like implodes. Meanwhile Bowa will be occupied with getting enough ABs for sixth outfielder Glanville:
"It will be hard to get six outfielders at-bats," Bowa said. "They got at-bats last year because Pat [Burrell] struggled and Marlon [Byrd] was hurt. I can get five guys at-bats. Six? I don't know."
Mind you, this is a manger who has trouble filling out a scorecard while chewing gum. Even with the injuries last year, only two bench players got more than 134 ABs (Ledee 255 and Perez 298). Also, the Phils went all last season with just five men playing the outfield, and one of them only (Michaels) only collected 109 ABs. The prospect of adding a sixth man to that mix is ludicrous at best especially with the injuries in the infield to Thome and Bell and the fact that both catchers are well over thirty (Lieberthal 32, Pratt 37). The solution? The Phils may trade Ledee to keep the over-the-hill Glanville. At least then they couldn't njustify keeping Utley off the roster.
Finally, I may be mentioning the Twins a lot because the Phils played them in a wild 9-8 loss yesterday. Burrell looks fully recovered from his poor season last year and is prepared to rebound like Schmidt in 1979 after his just very good 1978 season. Burrell hit a home run that he had to reach for and muscle over the left field fence for his first of spring. He ended up 2-for-3.
At the other end of the spectrum, Kevin Millwood allowed back-to-back home runs en route to a three-inning, seven-hit, five-run start. Actually both starters had a rough time. Both allowed a bunch of home runs (Radke 3, Millwood 4). Then the pen settled helped settle the game down a bit. However, struggling/injury closer Billy Wagner allowed two runs in the final inning for a loss and setup man Roberto Hernandez gave up two a few innings earlier. Wagner just needs to heal and get his appearances in. Hernandez just isnít that good. But Millwood is a concern. He has a 15.96 ERA and is 0-2 this spring while throwing just 7.1 innings in three appearances. He says that he was just working on some pitches and the next start will be "for real". After his meltdown at the end of last season, it does give one pause.
In other news, Jimmy Rollins went 3-for-3 with a homer and seems to be settling into his role at or near the bottom of the lineup. Good. Cormier looks ready for the season and Coggin did pitch well although he got himself into trouble after two quick outs. Lou Collier meanwhile does not look comfortable with the throws from third and mishandled a ball to get the leading runner at second on one play (for an error)óand yet Utley still didnít get a trial there. He played briefly at first, however (and hit a ball off his knee so maybe the roster problem will be solved by a DL visit).