Phillies might need help in rotation to defend title

Updated: June 3, 2009

Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire

Joe Blanton, 4-3 with a 5.86 ERA, is part of Phillies' rotation struggling to find consistency.

The Phillies' rotation is not as strong as it needs to be. The team lost veteran Brett Myers to a hip injury and faces stiff competition against a hungry Mets team in the National League East.

As well as the Phillies are playing, a quick look at their rotation (in no particular order) can give fans cause for concern:

He made only four starts and eight appearances, but I liked what I saw from J.A. Happ last year. He did a pretty good job with the limited opportunities. He goes below the radar mostly, but he can bring a level of consistency to the back of the rotation that the Phillies need, especially if he continues to pitch like he did Wednesday. He tossed seven shutout innings in a win against the Padres to improve to 4-0 on the year. Between now and the end of the regular season could be a chance for him to get noticed. If I were to pick one player who could surprise some people and make a real difference, Happ would be the guy.

Joe Blanton has done a nice job. He is very important to their chances. He's not a guy that will carry a team, but he helped the Phillies' cause down the stretch a year ago and they will need to lean on him at times this season to be successful. At 46 years old, Jamie Moyer is not pitching very deep into games. In fact he hasn't pitched more than six innings in any game yet this year. That will tax your bullpen over time, and it already doesn't seem as strong as it was last year.

Like the Mets, the Phillies' ultimate destiny is tied to their No. 1 starter. Cole Hamels needs to stay healthy, or the club could really struggle. It looks as if the NL wild card will come from the Central Division, so to make the playoffs, they will have to win the East. Unless Johan Santana goes down and the Mets face their own crisis, the Phils will have to have a healthy Hamels. Maybe he has gotten his injury issues out of the way early this season. He got hit by a pitch and a line drive and rolled his ankle already.

Another concern for him is leftover wear and tear from last season. The amount of innings and pitches last year might catch up with Hamels at some point this season and he could suffer a bit late in the year. If anything serious happens to him, the Phillies will be in trouble and would have to start scoring eight or nine runs a game to win consistently.

Even a Santana-less Mets' rotation with Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding, would seem to have more depth than Philadelphia's. The Phillies' lineup is strong, but over the long haul, you win with pitching and defense. It's rare that a team slugs its way into the playoffs.

Even if Myers were healthy right now, his recent inconsistency would still be a cause for concern. It was like flipping a coin with him lately. So his loss doesn't devastate the team, really. I don't think the race will be decided until the last two weeks of the season. But the rotation is definitely a weakness for the Phillies, and they probably will need to address it to get back to the playoffs.

The Phils can get real close and maybe even sneak into the playoffs with their rotation staying as is, but if they want to become one of the favorites to defend their World Series title, they'll need to add a quality starter at some point. Some obvious names that come to mind are Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt, but a lot of teams will chase those two. Seattle's Erik Bedard has pitched well this year, and his just might be the arm you see joining the Phillies.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 2 | June 1 | May 31 | May 28 | May 27


Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
J. Drew, Bos8DetGalarragaTop 1: 3-2, 0 Outs. 1 on.
B. Abreu, LAA2TorJanssenTop 1: 0-1, 0 Outs. 1 on.
R. Braun, Mil10FlaWestTop 3: 2-2, 1 Outs. 1 on.
J. Cantu, Fla9MilLooperBot 4: 2-1, 2 Outs. None on.
J. Dye, CWS14OakOutmanBot 1: 2-1, 1 Outs. 1 on.

The complete list of Wednesday's homers


Cubs at Braves, 7 p.m. ET

Carlos Zambrano returns to the mound after a difficult week. He was hit with a six-game suspension after his outburst -- directed at both an umpire and a Gatorade dispenser -- on May 27. Then, on Monday, he missed the team's flight to Atlanta without permission.

Phillies at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

Cole Hamels snuck away with a win in his most recent outing despite a rough start. He gave up eight hits and six runs in six innings, but the Phillies were able to hit their way to a 9-6 win over the Nationals. Hamels, however, did pitch well against the Dodgers earlier this season, permitting only two hits over seven innings in a no-decision.

Red Sox at Tigers, 1:05 p.m. ET

Dontrelle Willis had been off to a good start to his season, but he was hammered for 10 hits and seven runs in five innings of a 7-2 loss against the Orioles his last time out. Was it a blip, or could more trouble be lurking for Willis?

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.


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Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter, Orestes Destrade
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Tonight, he takes a look at Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman, who has been nearly untouchable in his new home in Milwaukee:

Trevor Hoffman: Consecutive scoreless appearances before allowing first run
2009 16 (and counting)
2008 1
2007 7
2006 0
2005 0
2004 1



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Wang Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced on Wednesday that Chien-Ming Wang would return to the rotation against Texas on Thursday and Phil Hughes would move to the bullpen.

Wang spent some time on the disabled list with a hip injury but has since seemed to regain some control of his sinking fastball, which is the pitch that led to his success the past few seasons. His velocity is up, and he is generating ground balls at a rate consistent with years past.

Chien-Ming Wang
Opponents vs. fastballs since 2007
2007 2008 2009 Pre-DL 2009 Post-DL
BA .286 .262 .586 .310
SLG .395 .344 1.000 .414
Avg. mph 92.6 91.5 90.4 91.9
GB/FB ratio 1.5 1.2 0.4 1.3

-- ESPN Stats & Information


Fantasy AJ Mass examines the 13 games originally on Thursday's slate.

Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes