Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moyer's the Fifth Starter

Barring a trade or injury, Jamie Moyer is going to be the Philadelphia Phillies' fifth starter on the opening day roster.

The "competition" this spring for the fifth spot has been between Kyle Kendrick and Moyer. The common wisdom and explicitly expressed view of Rich Dubee, who has some say in the matter as the pitching coach, is that to win the job, Kendrick has to significantly outperform Moyer.

A tie goes to Moyer in this race. And in fact, even a loss by less than 10 yards in a 40-yard dash goes to Moyer.


Well, consider the options. Let's say you put Kendrick in the rotation. What do you do with Moyer?

Send him to the bullpen.

OK, but do you really want to do that? In the bullpen, Moyer becomes the 12th guy who gets an occasional spot start. You're not able to use him as a situational lefty because of how long he needs to warm up and the fact that he won't be able to pitch on consecutive days, and at his age, you have to wonder how much durability he'd have on a reliever's uncertain schedule.

Much to his credit, Moyer never suggested that his injury in September and the subsequent surgeries and complications were due to the shift to the bullpen; but every fan wondered. And certainly the Phillies have to wonder how long Moyer would hold up in the irregular role.

Note also that I have not mentioned at all the question of whether you really want to pay $8 million to your 12th man in the 'pen. I take Ruben Amaro, Jr. at his word when he says that money will not enter into the decision. But to put it in perspective, the Phillies weren't even willing to re-sign Clay Condrey as their 12th guy when his price tag went above $250K.

Now consider Kendrick in the 'pen. Though neither man has extensive bullpen experience, you have to think that the young Kendrick is much more suited to the role. And as a classic sinkerballer, Kendrick would seem to be a good fit as the guy you bring in to get the doubleplay grounder to short when you're in a jam.

In addition, the move on Opening Day doesn't determine your roster in September. Assume Moyer stinks up the joint in April and May (which I don't expect to happen), then there's still time to move Kendrick into the rotation.

Finally, there's David Herndon. Herndon is the Rule 5 draft pick from the Angels who has been stellar out of the bullpen this spring. Because he's a Rule 5 pick, Herndon must either remain on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Angels, who would probably take him because of his stellar spring with the Phillies.

Herndon appears to be a solid pick to start the season in the 'pen because of the injuries to JC Romero and Brad Lidge.

Assume he does well in the first few weeks, and the Phillies want to hang on to him when Lidge and Romero come back. They could always send Kendrick (who still has minor league options remaining) to Triple A to create a spot for Herndon in the majors while they figure out whom they want to keep. They couldn't do that with Moyer.

And you really don't want to give Kendrick the number five spot, only to option him to Triple A a few weeks later so you can hold on to Herndon (in the hopes that he pans out) and then move a 47-year old Moyer from the 'pen into the rotation.

That's just bizarre.

No, it's much cleaner to keep Moyer in the rotation, send Kendrick to the 'pen, get a few appearances from Herndon in the regular season, figure out whether he's a keeper, and then make your decisions about the long-term, which might necessitate sending Kendrick to Triple A for a while as things sort themselves out.

I started all of this by saying, "Barring a trade..." and that's a crucial caveat. Moyer is a very attractive pitcher for lots of big league clubs where he'd be slotted into the number 5 (or even 4) slot into the rotation in the blink of an eye. And several relievers, including the newly emergent Herndon, might be moved as clubs realize that they're bullpen isn't as deep as it seemed in December.

So, there's a ton of action still possible, but barring a trade or injury, Jamie Moyer will be the Phillies fifth starter on opening day.

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