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Phillies bullpen stumbles again, luckily offense provides big enough cushion

Just from looking at the box score some could start to say ‘I didn’t know Brad Lidge was back.’

However, that would be both wrong and unfair.  But nonetheless the bullpen did, once again, stumble in the ninth inning of a game where the Phillies had a fairly comfortable lead.

Roy Halladay pitched brilliantly again like only the Doc knows how to do.  He went eight innings, while allowing two earned runs and eight hits.  He also struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.  His ERA has jumped up to 1.13.  No need to panic, I think he will recover from this one.  Halladay also helped put an end to Marlin Jorge Cantu’s streak of 10 games with at least one hit and RBI.  Until it ended, it was a Major League record.  To help his own cause, Halladay had a hit in the game.  He now has had at least one hit in each of his starts this season.

The Phillies offense averaging over seven runs a game wasted no time getting onto the board.   Three RBI singles from Ryan Howard, Juan Castro and Carlos Ruiz started the scoring early in the bottom of the 1st.  Philadelphia added a run in the 2nd and 3rd innings and finally chased Florida starter Anibal Sanchez after six innings.   He gave up eight hits and five earned runs.

Placido Polanco and Chase Utley each had a solo home run in the game.  Utley is now tied for the Major League lead in homers with Nelson Cruz of Texas and Toronto’s Vernon Wells with six.

The Phillies took a 8-2 lead into the ninth but with Halladay having already thrown 100 pitches and in the midst of a short rain delay, Manager Charlie Manuel opted to bring in David Herndon from the bullpen.  The Rule 5 Draft pick, who was stellar in Spring Training, saw his first real trouble of the young season allowing five hits and four earned runs in only a third of a inning.  Ryan Madson came in and mopped up the mess closing out the rest of the night.   The Phillies held on to a 8-6 victory in front of their 45th straight sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park.

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So far so good. For some at least…..NL East

It is entirely way too early to tell being only nine, some ten, games into the season but let’s take a look at how the NL East is shaping up thus far.  I believe it was Toby Keith who said, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then, I wish I could start this whole thing over again.”

He was most definitely talking about a girl there, but some GM’s might be singing the same song after this first week and a half of the 2010 season.  Going into the season teams have high expectations about their club without ultimately knowing how they will finish.  I can think of a couple teams that probably wish they were back at .500 (0-0).

So far, the Phillies, Braves, Nationals and Mets have each played nine games while the Marlins have competed in 10.  Most teams have made it at least twice through their pitching rotation, shuffled players between the DL, majors and minors, and have seen streaks and slumps broken.

Let’s get started shall we.  We will start from the bottom of the division.  And this has nothing to do with saving the best for last (Phillies, which they are) or exploiting that the Mets are in last place (which is admittedly awesome), it is about starting with bad news first and ending with the good.  Just like any meeting should progress.

New York Mets (3-6)

A preseason pick of 4th place in the division seems generous at this point but appears to be a good landing place for the Metropolitans once the season comes to a halt late October.  Coming into this season expectations were high, but then again you could not get much worse than last season.

The Mets are still a little sluggish from Spring Training and all the injury updates.  Carlos Beltran and Daniel Murphy are still on the DL with projected returns for early May.  Jose Reyes is back but has only played in 5 games and is hitting just .261.   He’s really not seeing the ball well having no homeruns or RBIs, and has struck out six times.  New York is currently ranked 10th in the National League in hitting with a .243 batting average.  There are only five teams who have hit fewer homeruns (9) than the Mets.  So far the offense is averaging only 4.4 runs this season.

The pitching rotation consists of Johan Santana and then, um, well actually no clue.  The staff is just barely in the top half of the NL in ERA at 4.33.  Which isn’t too much of a surprise considering after Santana the rotation skips a few tiers of talent.  To our surprise Mike Pelfrey has really stepped his game up this year.  He has two of the teams three wins, boasting a 1.38 ERA in 13 IP and only allowing nine hits while striking out 10 and walking just four batters.

The pitching will continue to be shaky and the offense not strong enough to support their high ERAs.  Look for New York to continue to sink at the bottom of the NL East.

Washington Nationals (4-5)

The Nationals are off to one of their better starts in years.  And to many people’s surprise, it has nothing to do with superstar sensation #1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg.  He will get his time soon.  So, despite having one of the lowest (.233, only Braves and Astros are worse) batting averages the Nats have somehow found a way to win four out of their first nine games.  With two of them coming at the hands of the defending National League Champs the Philadelphia Phillies, it seems like this season might be the one where they venture out of the realm of the NL East Forgotten.

Veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez is once again showing these kids how to hit with a team leading .407.  Josh Willingham is hitting .333 with 2 HR and 9 RBIs (both team lead).  The usually dangerous 1-2 punch of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn is only hitting .250/.185 respectively with a homer a piece and six RBIs between them.

The offseason addition of Jason Marquis has not worked out quite as expected.  The notorious inning eater has lasted only 8 1/3 innings through two starts while watching his ERA skyrocket to 12.96.  Now that would be bad enough, yet unfortunately for Washington that is not the highest ERA amongst starters.   Craig Stammen is ballooning at 15.63 with only 6 1/3 innings pitched as a starter.  Throw in five other pitchers with +7 ERAs and the Nationals are second to last in team ERA (7.04) but are, interestingly enough, tied for first in saves (4).

The Nationals will not even sniff the top of the division this season but will generate a lot of buzz while an early mid-summer call up for Strasburg is pretty inevitable at this point.

Atlanta Braves (5-4)

In the last season for Bobby Cox, the Braves will be looking to get back to the top of the division.  A view they have not seen since 2005, the last of their 11-year streak as NL East Champs.

Hopes were high coming into the season opener finally having Tim Hudson back from injury.  He was a huge signing for Atlanta but just could not stay healthy.  Also the power-hitting rookie Jason Heyward was making highlight reels and dents during Spring Training with towering homers.   The rookie is hitting .303 with 3 HR and 12 RBIs.  The surprise for this offense is 2B Martin Prado hitting .459.  A great batting average but with no one hitting in front of him has only allowed him to pick up 2 RBIs.  Catcher Brian McCann is sitting comfortably 46 points above .300 where he will probably hover all season long.  3B Chipper Jones is having problems both with his oblique and at the plate (.150)

The pitching staff has been throwing well. Three of the five starters (Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Kenshin Kawakami) possess an ERA of 3.00 or lower.  Hanson has struck out 14 hitters in 11 1/3 innings but has walked seven batters as well.   Billy Wagner is back closing ball games and already has a save and 10 K in 5 IP.  The Braves have a good pairing of a talented line-up and rotation.  I don’t think they have enough to overtake the Phillies though.  At least not this year.

Florida Marlins (6-4)

Ah the Florida Marlins.  The team where you will rarely hear an announcer saying “And in his 5th year with the club, is….”  Guys just don’t stick around too long here.  The Marlins are best known for their ‘fire sale’ after winning their first World Series after the ’97 season in which they traded all their star players claiming financial troubles from the front office.

While Florida has won two WS titles, they are still in search of their first division win.  Both playoff appearances came via the Wild Card.  Per usual, Florida is a young and talented team again this year.  Five guys in the starting lineup are hitting .300 or better with overall team average at .278.  1B Jorge Cantu has at least one hit and an RBI in every game this season; a new Major League record.  He has 15 RBIs in the first 10 games.

No one from the starting rotation has really stepped up as the clear-cut ace.  Josh Johnson has logged the most innings thus far with 16.  In those, he has struck out 20 while walking eight batters.   The bullpen looks ok, mixing in Save chances amongst three different guys.

The Marlins are always going to be an exciting team to watch.  Always going to score runs.  It is their pitching staff that will hinder them from climbing the ladder to overtake the Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies (7-2)

The Phillies are in a share of the Major League lead in win percentage with the San Francisco Giants at .778.  They have won seven of their first nine games with ridiculous offense and tremendous pitching from Roy Halladay and Company.

Oh man where do I begin.  Not counting ABs, the Phillies are in the NL Top 3 for every offensive category.  They are leading the Majors in Runs, RBIs, Total Bases, and Slugging Percentage.  It is one of the greatest offensive starts for not just the Phillies, but of any team in Major League history.

Newly acquired 3B Placido Polanco is leading the team (and Majors) with a .475 average.  Besides a 0 for 3 against Houston on April 11, Polanco has collected at least two hits in every game this year.  Chase Utley is tied for the NL home run lead with Albert Pujols at 5.  Ryan Howard is 4th in RBIs.

Take a look at these numbers of offensive domination.  Out of the top 25 for AVG, HR, and RBIs the Phillies 4, 3, and 4 players on those lists respectively.

Can the Phillies keep up this pace?  Probably not but 100 wins is not out of the question here.  Aside from Jimmy Rollins, the Phils need to stay healthy and spread the wealth.  They have done a great job of not depending on one or two players to win the game.  Up to this point in the season it has truly been a team effort.

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Bullpen hiccups cost Phillies series sweep against Nationals

It almost seems fitting that when MLB Network re-aired an episode of ‘The Pen’ documenting the ’09 Phillies bullpen the year after they won the World Series would be the day that this year’s almost perfect pen would blow it and put a skid to the Phils five game win streak.

For a second straight start (well his only two thus far) lefty J.A. (call me ‘Jay’) Happ didn’t allow an earned run.  However, again in his second straight start he didn’t last six innings.

Against the Nationals in the final game of the series in Philadelphia he did last 1/3 of an inning longer and only allowed 3 hits, as apposed to six in his first start.   However, he didn’t have any strikeouts and walked six batters.  Walking six and not allowing an earned run is impressive, don’t get me wrong, but why put that much pressure on yourself.

Not taking anything away from Scott Olsen who pitched adequately but this game really started when both starters left the game.  It seems the Nats bullpen took a page from the Phillies for this game.  The night before after the two inning slugfest to start the game, the Phillies bullpen came in and held Washington to only four hits and one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.  The Nats bullpen didn’t fair so well giving up seven hits, seven runs and four walks in only 4 innings.

After Jose Contreras struck out the final two batters in the 6th coming in for Happ, the rest of the night was a bit shaky.  Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, and Ryan Madson pitched an inning each in which combined they allowed six hits and six earned runs.  The biggest blow was the pinch-hit two-run homerun by Ryan Zimmerman, which put the Nats up by one.

Obviously the bullpen is going to have its troubles, just like the starting rotation, but they should be expected to hold it down against a team like Washington?  Ok maybe that is not fair.  Yes they are a Major League team but again they are the Washington Nationals.

Let’s look at it this way.  Relievers are supposedly brought it depending on match ups.  Now when a pitcher doesn’t last 6 innings, the bullpen may be required to pitch longer than usual and face hitters they normally would not be left in to face.  And with logging over seven innings the night before, the bullpen was a little skinny.  Last night against the Nats the bullpen trio for Philly (Bastardo, Baez, Madson) faced a total of 18 batters.  Of those 18, nine reached base via a hit or a walk.  When two of those hits turn out to be homeruns, then the walks really hurt.

Hopefully with Roy Halladay pitching today, that will give the bullpen a rest.

Worth noting:  Placido Polanco once again has two hits in a game and is batting a league high .475.  Jimmy Rollins replacement at shortstop while he is on the DL Juan Castro went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.  Chase Utley, for the series with Washington, had 4 HR, 7 RBIs, 6 R.

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NL East Preview: Phillies

Well here we are.  Just about 2 weeks and some change from Opening Day for Major League Baseball.  Teams are shortening up their rosters and pitchers are lengthening their innings.  All the prep work, all the sweating, the BP, the stretching.  It’s all about to pay off.

So what can you expect from the Phillies this season?   This is the question that Crashburn Alley asked 16 Phillies Bloggers.  We were asked about Cole Hamels and company to see how well we thought our beloved Phightins would fair this season.  You can check out Crashburn Alley’s site to see what everyone had to say.  Below you can read how I responded to the questions.  Hopefully this will stir up some conversation.

  1. How concerned are you about Cole Hamels going into 2010?

When a pitcher comes off a frustrating year there is always going to be a little bit of concern.  Last season Hamels showed some his 2008 form but had problems putting together a string of good starts.  I think what happens is, is that a lot hitters now are making the adjustment better than before.  What I mean by this is a pitcher is going to use what works for him.  And with Hamels it was his fastball and then his amazing change-up.  Now, Hamels could throw the off speed pitch in any count so it kept hitters guessing.  But last year the hitters were jumping on first pitches and ‘need to throw a strike’ pitches, so he got roughed up a little.  Mid-season is hard to incorporate a new pitch especially when you aren’t comfortable throwing it.  The curve was giving him a lot of problems, and then was causing discomfort in his elbow so that was out.  I think for this season, we will see his wins up and ERA down.  He has always been a strikeout pitcher so I am not worried about those numbers.  His fastball is showing life this Spring, his change-up is still nasty and he is liking the way his curve and cutter are progressing.  My biggest concern for Cole Hamels this season is how to get a fitted hat on his big head in 2011 once he regains his domination this year.  Hamels cockiness is as much a problem as it is a blessing.  He needs that edge.   Too many times last year you could see his frustration on the mound when he didn’t get calls or his defense got soft.  Be cocky yet humble, and be great with no mercy.

2. Give the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee mega-trade between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners a letter grade and explain your grading process.

Well obviously now that Roy Halladay has a 0.90 ERA through 15 innings this spring Cliff Lee just got tossed in the third inning of his game, I would have to say the Grade is an A.  And I think throughout this season it will stay that way.  The major characteristic of this trade that we need to look at is how it affects the Phillies farm system.  I, personally, do not feel they replenished it properly.   But only time will tell.

3. What should the Phillies do about Jayson Werth and his impending free agency?

I think it is very possible to resign Jayson Werth after the season.  Raul Ibanez will be a FA after the 2011 season.  It is very possible to sign Werth to a heavy ended contract to save money while Ibanez plays out his final year as a Phillie.  Also, Werth has never seemed like the kind of guy that was worried about money but you never know.  The Phillies are a good fit for him.  They are the only team that stuck with him through his injuries and gave him a real chance to play every day.

4. Jimmy Rollins says he wants to hit .300, accrue 200 hits, score 150 runs, steal 50 bases, and commit 3 or fewer errors. Give us your AVG, H, R, SB, and E predictions for Rollins in 2010.

AVG .293

H 183

R 130

SB 45

E 5

Jimmy is good.  But those numbers are out of this world.  Would I love to eat my words?  Of course.  Do it up Jimmy.

5. Is the duo of Ryan Madson and Danys Baez reliable back-up for ailing closer Brad Lidge?

Absolutely.  I think Brad Lidge is feeling good and confident about this upcoming season.  Baez is an established pitcher who has pitched in bug games before.  Madson has gotten hit this spring training but I feel he will make the right adjustments to get the job done.

6. Which team in the NL East worries you the most?

The Braves remind me of the Phillies of 2005 and 2006.  Their prospects (the good ones) are all maturing at the same time it seems.  Tommy Hanson is a very good pitcher and it is only a matter of time before we see Jayson Heward in the lineup for Atlanta.  And that day will most likely be opening day this season.  Heward has unbelievable power and does all the little things correctly.

7. Teams have been approaching Ryan Howard with a steady diet of left-handed pitching and breaking balls and by employing the shift on the right side of the field. Will this trend continue in 2010, or will Howard make the appropriate adjustments?

I think Howard will make the right adjustments but never quite be completely comfortable at the plate against lefties.  His bat is so heavy that there is always a chance of him becoming off balance out on the front foot.  But that is ok, I think.  He can keep putting the ball to the opposite field.  This season we should see his batting average rise while his strikeout numbers go down.

8. Placido Polanco is making the switch from second base to third base. How good will he be defensively?

Polanco has a great glove.  The biggest different between second and third is reaction time.  I am not worried about his glove work but am a little concerned with his arm.  He definitely does not have the arm strength Pedro Feliz had.  Other than that, whatever other flaws come with him switching positions, his bat will make up for it.

9. Who should win the #5 spot, Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick?

For baseball’s sake, Kyle Kendrick would win the #5 spot for the Phillies.  He has showed great command this spring and is still getting better.  He is, however, giving too many warning track power fly balls.  He would definitely need to keep the ball down more.  Now with that said, I think Moyer will likely get the nod.  There is no way Charlie Manuel is going to justify putting an 8mil a year almost 50 year old in the bullpen.  It is just not going to happen.  Unless they release Moyer, Kendrick starts in the pen.

10. The bench was great in 2008 but disappointing last year. Will the additions of Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, and Juan Castro help?

I think the addition of Smalls, Hambone and Squints would have been a better bench than 2009.  These are great pickups for Rube and company.  Brian Schneider is a legitimate starter on another team and to have him as a number 2 is awesome.  Ross Gload and Juan Castro are not going to hit .325, but if they can hit for situation then they will suffice perfectly.

11. Will J.A. Happ come close to his 2.93 ERA from 2009?

A sub-3 ERA from J.A. Happ would be incredible.  I am not buying into the whole ‘last season was a fluke’ thing or that it was based on luck.  I think Happ is number 3 starter at best right now in his career.  I also think a sub-4 ERA is very doable and we could very well see his win total rise from last year.  Prediction 14-8, 3.69 ERA

12. The Phillies essentially swapped Chan Ho Park for Jose Contreras. Thumbs up or thumbs down and why?

Thumbs way down.  Park got into some trouble last season, but kept his composure.  He stayed in games, or better yet, he kept the Phillies in games.  From what I have seen this spring, Contreras just looks ‘content’ to be pitch.  I hate the words ‘content’ and ‘hungry’ but that is not what the Phillies need in their pen.  They need a Major League pitcher ready to rock.   I don’t think Contreras is that guy.

13. Which Phillie(s) is/are we most likely to see dealt by the July 31 trading deadline?

I think there is a very good chance we could see Brian Schneider and/or Ross Gload get traded.  Depending on how well they do in spot starts/at bats, they could seem attractive to teams suffering from injury behind the plate and in the field.

14. The Phillies have had one of baseball’s best defenses for several years running according to most metrics. Does this trend continue?

Of course.  With Ryan Howard showing up early to Clearwater to work on fielding and the addition of Polanco the defense has definitely gotten better this season.

15. What will the team get from Domonic Brown this season?

Barring injuries to the current team, the Phillies will get a September call up and monster Minor League season from Brown this season.

Predictions

Phillies W-L, place in division: 99-63 1st in NL East

Playoffs: (Do the Phillies reach the post-season? If so, how will they fare? Be specific.)

Phillies will beat LA in NLDS, as will St Louis over Atlanta(WC).  Phillies will then beat StL in NLCS 4 games to 2.  In WS they will beat Boston in 7 games.

Team MVP: Chase Utley

Team Cy Young: Roy Halladay

Biggest Rookie Contributor: John Mayberry Jr

Breakout player: (can be the same as above) Mayberry Jr

Under-the-radar: (player who is underappreciated by fans and media) Carlos Ruiz

Feel free to send in your own answers to the questions above.

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Nomar says No More, Announces Retirement

Without a team this offseason and after 14 years in the big leagues, Red Sox infielder, at least today, Nomar Garciaparra is saying good bye to baseball.  And he is doing it gracefully.  Many players wait too long to hang up the cleats, and spend year after year taking up roster spots thinking they have good years left.  Now on the contrary, I think Garciaparra had some years left, but some people think he may have been a little overused by the Athletics last season which may have caused unusual wear and tear on his 36-year-old body.

The one thing that is certain about Nomar is that he was a great ball player.  He grew up in California and led his high school team to league championships in 1990-91 and took MVP honors in ’91.  This success continued through college where he played at Georgia Tech where his team, unfortunately, lost to Oklahoma in the College World Series in 1994.  While in college he was a first team All-American in 1993 and ’94.  On that same team with Nomar was his former Red Sox teammate Jason Varitek where they became the first two Georgia Tech players to be All-Americans twice during their college careers.

After college, Nomar was drafted in the first round in ’94 by Boston and spent three seasons in their minor league system before an August 31st call up during the 1996 season.  It didn’t take long for him to get into the swing of things, literally.  Against Oakland, Nomar had his first Major League hit; a homerun.  This would be the first of 229 he had during his career.  Nomar was one of the greatest hitting shortstops baseball has seen in my opinion.  Over 14 seasons his career batting average was .313 and drove in almost 940 runs.

Since then it’s been over 1400 games played wearing four different uniforms.  Obviously his time spent in Boston meant a lot to him.  He showed this by signing a minor league contract allowing him to retire wearing a Red Sox jersey.

With Boston, Nomar played over 900 games, was a 5-time All-Star selection, Silver Slugger Award winner and the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year.  During his press conference he said he felt at home in a Red Sox uniform and thanked his fans, family, friends and many front office personnel for his time in Boston.  He went on to say, “While I had the privilege of playing with other legendary teams, I always saw myself retiring in a Red Sox uniform. Today, I am honored to live that dream.”

Now the only question critics are asking is whether or not Nomar is a Hall-of-Famer.  I guess we have five years to discuss that one.  I’ll let you talk amongst yourselves.

Kieran Carobine

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Strasburg Debuts, Delivers on Hype

I must admit this was a day I have been waiting for all spring.  Since the day the Nationals made the San Diego State star their number one pick overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, I was not the only one counting down until Spring Training.  Stephen Strasburg was hitting triple digits, regularly, on the radar gun in college.

Well that day came.  Amongst all the hype and excitement Strasburg toed the rubber for his first action of Spring Training 2010 against the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

And he did not disappoint.  In his first inning he threw only seven pitches.  With none of them registering lower than 96 mph on the radar gun.  He fell behind the first two hitters 2-0 then got them both to ground out.   In the second inning, things should have been a bit more difficult for the young right hander, with some of the core guys for the Tigers coming to the plate,  but he made easy work of Miguel Cabrera with a 98-mph heater and getting Carlos Guillen to ground out to third base on a 97-mph fastball.  After allowing two consecutive singles, Strasburg then fell behind 3-0 to Brent Dlugach only to strike him on the third consecutive strike looking; an 81-mph curveball.   Strasburg finished the day pitching 2 IP, 2, H, 2 K, and 0 BB.  He threw 27 pitches, 15 for strikes.

For the most part, Strasburg looked sharp.  His fastball obviously had some zip on it but what surprised me the most was his hook.  His curveball froze Cabrera in the second inning for a called strike.  And when he came back with a top shelf 98-mph fastball, it just wasn’t fair.   Now a little of his success, I guess, can be attributed to the Tigers having never seen this kid throw before.  But in no way can you take away from how this kid throws.

In college, he threw two pitches.  His fastball and a breaking pitch.  It seems at the Major League level, Strasburg will throw two types of fastballs; a four-seam and a two-seamer which both have good movement.  He also has a breaking ball and a change-up.  There has been rumors of him developing a cutter, but we didn’t see it in his debut.

It still appears to be a pipe dream for Strasburg to start the year in Washington with the big club, but a September call up would not be out of the question.  When asked about the possibility of Strasburg making the Opening Day roster, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman had this to say, “I think it’s going to come down to a philosophical decision more so than a performance decision.”

“We anticipate that he is going to throw great. I think it’s going to come down to, what is going to be best for Stephen Strasburg as an organization? I have been very impressed, and I continue to be impressed.”

My guess is he will start at Class-AA Harrisburg for eight to ten starts before moving up to Class-AAA Syracuse until a possible September call up.

Kieran Carobine

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Not quite Dominican Gold, But Martinez could pay out for Nationals

Pedro Martinez is nowhere near ready to hang up his spikes.  However, yet again he finds himself watching from the outside as pitchers and catchers reported early last week to Florida and Arizona.  And as position players roll in to start full squad practices Martinez is trying to find somewhere to fit in.

He waited until mid July to sign with the Phillies last season and proved to everyone he still has something left in the tank.  In nine starts with the Phightins he went 5-1 throwing over 44 innings and posting an ERA of 3.63.  If that wasn’t enough, he was on the postseason roster and pitched well throughout the playoffs.  Though he didn’t pick up a win for any of his three starts, he did post a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings pitched in the NLCS and World Series against the Dodgers and Yankees, respectively.

So my question is; why not the Nationals?  I know Martinez has already said he would go back to the Phillies, but GM Ruben Amaro is not ready to meets his $5 million for the year quote.  And with Jaime Moyer or Kyle Kendrick likely to win out the 5th spot in the rotation, there would be no room for Martinez.  The Dodgers and Cubs were also linked the 38-year-old righty this past summer with nothing materializing.

I am not saying the Nationals starting five is up for grabs but you have to think the front three will be, in no particular order, Jason Marquis, John Lannan, and Chien-Ming Wang.  Wang is coming back from a successful surgery to repair torn cartilage in his shoulder, but should be ready to go early to mid April.   This leaves Scott Olsen, Garret Mock, and J.D. Martin.  Jordan Zimmerman will most likely miss this entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past August and Ross Detwiler will not see any major league action for at least three months after having surgery to repair a labral tear in his right hip.

Even with Detwiler and Zimmerman, the Nats young staff not named Hernandez and Lannan went a combined 24-44 last season.  Bringing in a guy like Martinez could add guidance to a young pitching staff and solidify the final spot in the rotation.

Yeah Martinez is a high-risk/high-reward type pitcher, especially at this time in his career.   His last double-digit win total was in 2005.  Since then, he has scraped together mediocre years of 9, 3, 5 and 5 wins apiece.   However, he proved last season he can still pitch even if he has lost a bit off his fastball.  It is hard to forget that gem against the Giants when he out-dueled Tim Lincecum 2-1 in San Francisco last year.  Martinez threw seven innings of five hit ball while striking out nine.   So again, there is still something left.

I think if Nat’s GM Mike Rizzo gives Martinez a reasonable base salary of 2.5 million for next year and the possibility of making 2.5 more with incentives for wins and innings pitched.  At this point it is a win-win situation.

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