Via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, an interesting little wrinkle in the Phillies' oh-my-God-who's-going-to-pitch-in-the-ninth-inning-next-month conundrum:
- J.A. Happ has been so good this season that he could win National League Rookie of the Year.
But as good as he has been in the rotation, he could be in the bullpen in the postseason. In fact, he could be pitching in some big spots in some big games.
"Happ really has improved as the season has gone on," Charlie Manuel said after the game. "I like Happ as a starter. I always have. But at the same time, I also see the way our pitching looks. There would be a chance that he could wind up in the back end of our bullpen if we don't get some things straightened out and (J.C.) Romero doesn't come back or something. I'm not going to say we're going to do that, but we're going to talk about it if we don't have any lefties."
The other missing lefty is Scott Eyre. Romero hasn't pitched since July 19, Eyre since the Sept. 7. The Phillies' only other lefty reliever is Jack Taschner, who has a 5.08 ERA and hasn't shown any particular ability to retire left-handed batters. Both Eyre and Romero are supposedly on the mend, but that's obviously a fluid situation.
And it's not like Manuel needs Happ in the rotation. Manuel needs four starters next month, at most. Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton are set. That leaves Pedro Martinez and Happ for the fourth spot. Martinez has pitched better than Happ, but Happ has more.
But while some managers might see a problem here, Charlie Manuel should see a wonderful opportunity. He could use Happ and Martinez as co-fourth starters, throwing whichever matches up better with today's opposition. He could designate Happ as fourth starter and make Martinez his closer. He could turn Happ into the National League version of J.P. Howell.
Or he could do half a dozen other things. And I haven't even mentioned Jamie Moyer, who's not good enough to start a postseason games but has done a pretty good job against left-handed hitters this season. My point is that even without Eyre and Romero, Manuel's got eight or nine pretty good (or at least useful) pitchers. If Manuel can't cobble together an effective staff, one through eight, that's not on Brad Lidge; it's on him.
(Oh, by the way, Happ is not going to be your National League Rookie of the Year. As good as he's been, his dozen or so wins won't be enough in a year with solid hitting candidates like Chris Coghlan, Andrew McCutchen, and Dexter Fowler.)