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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 6, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Jamie Moyer at a crossroads with the Phillies

moyernew.jpg

The Phillies have an interesting dilemma — too many starting pitchers. And it’s looking increasingly like our old friend, Jamie Moyer, could be the odd man out.

Not out of the team, mind you. Moyer is too popular with the fans, and too closely linked to last year’s World Series champion (and, yes, too expensive) to just be cut loose. But his spot in the Philadelphia rotation appears to be in jeapardy.

The Phillies, you’ll recall, added Cliff Lee at the trade deadline. And now Pedro Martinez, whom the Phillies signed on July 15, is looking good in his minor-league rehab stint and making noises about being ready to join the big-league team. That doesn’t seem far off. Martinez on Wednesday struck out 11 and didn’t walk any in six innings for Class AA Reading.

It appears Martinez will be up soon and in the rotation. The Phillies have said they didn’t sign him to pitch relief, so presumably one starter will have to go. Making room for Lee was easy; he bumped Rodrigo Lopez. Making room for Pedro won’t be nearly so easy.

There was some speculation that Martinez would displace rookie J.A. Happ. But after Happ pitched a complete-game shutout last night. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro came out today and said flatly that Happ is staying in the rotation for the rest of the season.

So you’ve got Lee, Martinez and Happ. Cole Hamels, the World Series MVP, isn’t going anywhere. And neither, it appears, is Joe Blanton, who has pitched solidly (7-5, 4.02 ERA).

That could leave 46-year-old Moyer, with 256 career wins, as the odd man out. Moyer happens to lead the Phillies with 10 victories this year, but his ERA is 5.55 and he was hit around by the Rockies in his most recent start (six earned runs in five innings). Moyer is not going particularly deep in games (only four starts out of 21 over six innings), putting some strain on the bullpen. Did I mention he’s 46?

The Phillies, who are on record saying Moyer can’t pitch out of the bullpen, may decide to go with a six-man rotation. Amaro raised that possibility today. But that seems a bit unwieldy for a championship contender. They have open dates on three of the next four Mondays, which would make it even harder to go with a six-man rotation.

This decision could come down to sentamentality; Moyer is highly respected in Philadelphia for the same reasons he was highly respected in Seattle — his body of work, his community service, his professionalism, et al.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Remember, Moyer — who turns 47 in November — is in the first year of a two-year contract. The Phillies are on the hook for Moyer’s $6.5 million salary next year.

At any rate, Moyer will almost certainly make his next scheduled start, which is Sunday against the Florida Marlins. He has owned the Marlins in his career, compiling a 13-2 record with a 2.83 ERA against the Fish.

After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Maybe Martinez will make the decision easier by pitching like he did last year with the Mets — not very well (5-6, 5.61 ERA in 20 starts).

One reader brought up the intriguing notion of the Mariners bringing back Moyer in August and September for a Seattle victory lap, a la, Ken Griffey Jr. But with that $6.5 million contract for next year, I don’t see it.

Moyer has shown amazing perseverance and resilience throughout his baseball career, and I expect he’ll be heard from again. With the Phillies.

(Photo by Associated Press)

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