A little more than a week ago Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick may have emphatically considered himself a buyer, but following ten losses in their last twelve games, he is just hoping to be able to field a team with enough working parts in the short term.
Starters Jon Lieber and Randy Wolf are both on rehab assignments and not faring too well, thank you. Pitching at Clearwater last night (that’s single A ball for those who are counting) Lieber gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings, striking out three and walking none. Wolf missed his scheduled start at A Lakewood following the discovery that he had a hairline fracture in his pitching hand after taking a batted ball off of it more than a week ago. For the record, he was rehabbing after Tommy John surgery, not a hand injury.
The starting rotation currently available to actually pitch consists of a career .500 pitcher (Corey Lidle) who has been visibly pissed off at his manager for two consecutive starts; a career relief pitcher (Ryan Madson) who has been an unmitigated disaster in his new role with the exception of a single game; a rookie (Cole Hamels) who had less than 200 innings of professional baseball at all levels under his belt prior to being summoned to save the season; another rookie pitcher (Scott Mathieson) whose appearance in the big leagues was to be an emergency stop-gap measure, not a permanent situation; and Brett Myers, whose story bears no repeating here.
The relievers as a group may have impressive overall numbers, but they are terribly inconsistent and unpredictable, especially Arthur Rhodes and Ryan Franklin. Worse, all of them have a tendency to come up small in big games. Just ask Tom Gordon.
The receiving corps isn’t any better. Mike Lieberthal continues to be plagued by injuries and is still not ready to come off the Disabled List. He has appeared in 26 games this season. In his place, career journeyman Sal Fasano has become the number one catcher by default, 33-year old rookie Chris Coste his backup, and minor leaguer Carlos Ruiz the forgotten and apparently buried alternative.
The infield remains the club’s bright spot with the exception of third base where David Bell’s already suspect “skills” in the field have deteriorated markedly and his inability to hit right handers and any handers in the clutch remains consistent with his career numbers.
The outfield is comprised of two corner starters who are either in funks at the plate or in the field, a courageous centerfielder who has struggled lately at the plate, and two replacements who should get more playing time before one of them (David Dellucci) escapes via free agency at the end of the season.
The bench, apart from the aforementioned outfielders, is the weakest one in years.
Is it any wonder this team is struggling?