Saturday, May 14, 2011

A New Kiddie Korps?

The first use in baseball of the term "Kiddie Korps" was in 1960 when the Baltimore Orioles finished in second place with an 89-65 record, their best performance to date since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1954. The O's record was due in no small measure to their young staff:

"The pitchers, nicknamed the "Kiddie Korps", included Chuck Estrada (18-11, 3.58), Milt Pappas (15-11, 3.37), Steve Barber (10-7, 3.22) and Jack Fisher (12-11, 3.41), all of them 23 and under." (Quoted from

The Phillies hardly have a Kiddie Korps at the front of their collective rotation, but lately they have been trotting out their own mini-version in middle and late relief (with a few starts thrown in by Vance Worley). Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Worley have been impressive in their short time in the big leagues, no more so than last night when the first two were called on to put out a fire in the seventh inning with the score tied at four apiece, one out and the bases loaded. They struck out the next two batters to preserve the tie and when the Phils took the lead in the top of the eighth, Worley came on in the bottom of the frame and after newly-minted Phillies-killer Alex Gonzalez singled and was sacrificed to second, the young right-hander got the next two batters to preserve the lead.

The emergence of these youngsters is emblematic of a team that has really had to patch itself together following all sorts of injuries, disablements and assorted ups and downs. Heck, the Phils were down to their third string catcher the other night, but they didn't miss a beat in taking two out of three from Florida and last night's opener in Atlanta.

They still sport the best record in baseball and have achieved all this without their star second baseman, closer, and first string catcher off-and-on. (The closer issue now seems moot with the emergence of Ryan Madson.) Speaking of Carlos Ruiz, he may be mired in a horrific slump, but don't think for one minute his presence last night wasn't critical. The Phillies' pitchers are simply better when he is not only calling the game but running it.

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