CLEARWATER, Fla. — Let the hype begin.
Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, who normally is not given to rash pronouncements, said Sunday that “it’s very possible” all five Phillies starting pitchers could throw 200 innings this season.
Not since 1980, the first year of Billyball in Oakland, has a team produced five 200-inning starters, according to STATS LLC. Only two other clubs, the ’77 Dodgers and ’57 Tigers, have done it since 1930.
OK, so maybe Dubee got carried away. But the Phillies’ rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton should be good enough to create a ripple effect on other parts of the club.
The Phillies’ bullpen figures to directly benefit from the rotation’s ability to pitch deep into games. In fact, if the starters perform as expected, Dubee and manager Charlie Manuel will be challenged to find the relievers enough work.
Which leads to another potential advantage – the potential to keep an extra position player on the bench.
Logic dictates that if the relievers are used sparingly, the Phillies will not need as many of them. Dubee acknowledged that the Phils might carry only 11 pitchers instead of the usual 12.
That could be good news for a number of major league veteran position players who are in camp on minor-league contracts – among them infielder Robb Quinlan and outfielders Delwyn Young and Brandon Moss.
The additional room on the 25-man roster also could enable the Phillies to retain infielder/outfielder Michael Martinez, their Rule 5 draft pick and leading candidate to back up center fielder Shane Victorino.
Manuel, a former hitting coach, surely would prefer the extra bat. But the Phillies’ front office might prefer that he keep the extra pitcher as a gentle reminder for him to avoid working his starters too hard.
In any case, the strength of the Phillies’ rotation could produce an additional intangible benefit – a more alert defense. Dubee noted that all five starters work quickly and pound the strike zone, saying they’re “fun to play behind.”
True enough: Lee ranked first in the majors last season in fewest pitches per inning, averaging only 14. Halladay ranked third in that department, Oswalt 10th, Blanton 24th and Hamels 51st.
— Ken Rosenthal