Plenty of question marks for potential playoff teams

Updated: September 25, 2009, 1:01 AM ET

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Brad Lidge was perfect last season for the Phillies, but he's been far from it this year.

Which of the teams likely headed to the playoffs have the most to figure out in the next two weeks? All of them except the Boston Red Sox.

Let's start with the organizations with the biggest question marks:

The Angels have to figure a number of things out. If they play the Red Sox in the first series, will Brian Fuentes be their closer?

Who is going to pitch for the Yankees? How does their rotation set up? Overall, A.J Burnett has been awful, excluding some of his recent starts, and besides CC Sabathia, which arms can the Yankees call on? Can you deem Andy Pettitte healthy after having to miss a start or two because of his shoulder? What they've done in monitoring Joba Chamberlain's workload has been unbelievable, but he's not even in the equation to start.

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies are having bullpen issues. Brett Myers had to come back to Philadelphia to get a strained lat muscle checked out after coming back from hip surgery. This leaves his late-game performance and availability unclear. Is it safe to count on him in the postseason? I spoke to Myers, and he told me he's going to be more than ready to go. So, hopefully, everything goes as planned.

The Phillies' Brad Lidge has been playing scary. It seems as if every outing there's the potential to tie or lose the game with him. It's never smooth.

The Dodgers' starting pitching and the Rockies' relief corps have questions, too. Colorado's Franklin Morales did a great job by stepping in after closer Huston Street went down. In Tuesday night's game, Street was pitching in the seventh inning and Morales had a scary ninth inning as he tried to notch a save against the Padres. He gave up two hits and a run, making it an 11-10 game, but secured his seventh save in eight chances.

Boston is really the only team heading into the postseason that you can look at and say, "This team is ready for the playoffs." Aside from the middle relief, which hasn't been too good, Jon Lester is pitching well and Daisuke Matsuzaka has looked good. The Sox look to me to be the one, of all the teams likely headed to the postseason, that is the most dolled up and ready to play in the playoffs.

The biggest decision for all the general managers who will still be working on active teams in October is who stays on the roster? Is Jamie Moyer on the roster for the Phillies? What do you do with Tim Wakefield? He didn't perform well in his start after coming off a leg injury, so what do you do with him in the postseason? This is a really difficult time. The trade deadline and right now are the two times each season when GMs have to hurt feelings.

I remember in 1993, when I was playing with the Phillies, we were playing a series in the middle of the year against St. Louis and we were getting torched. Our pitchers couldn't go deep in games, and our bullpen was just abused. One of the guys, Mark Davis, stood out there and took a beating in one of the games but somehow managed to pitch four or five innings to save our bullpen because he knew the guys were used up. He really took one for the team. As soon as we got back to Philly, the Phillies released him. That's when the reality of the business set in. As a team, we remained resilient and said, "We are going to win this despite what management does."

The biggest thing a general manager can do right now is determine who is going to be on the roster. Which players do we keep? Which do we let go? Which guys do we not put on the roster for the first round? Which do we add to the second round? All these questions have to be answered. Most of the time, it's your fourth or fifth starting pitcher in the first round who gets the boot.

For instance, what do you do with the Phillies? Joe Blanton pitched great Tuesday night. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee definitely are going to be in the rotation. Pedro Martinez has been really good in his six starts for Philadelphia. Who pitches Game 3? Blanton helped them last year, and he has pitched great this year. Do you go with the veteran, Pedro, who's been there and done it? Or Blanton? Believe me, if the Phillies make the wrong decision, it might upset some of the players.

These teams might be headed to the playoffs, but it doesn't mean everything is settled.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Sept. 22 | Sept. 21 | Sept. 20 | Sept. 17 | Sept. 16


Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
Miguel Cabrera, DET31MastersonTop 4: 0-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
Cody Ross, FLA24HamelsBot 5: 1-1, 0 Outs. None on.
Carlos Guillen, DET11GoslingTop 5: 1-0, 0 Outs. None on.
Carlos Guillen, DET10MastersonTop 3: 0-0, 1 Out. 1 on.
Matt Wieters, BAL8RichmondTop 5: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
The complete list of Wednesday's homers


Rangers at A's, 3:35 p.m. ET

Texas isn't going to make the playoffs. Still, Scott Feldman will continue his quest to 20 wins. Feldman (17-5) is 9-1 since the beginning of August. The 17-win total is second in the AL behind the Yankees' CC Sabathia.

Tigers at Indians, 7:05 p.m. ET

The Tigers and Twins both held serve Wednesday, which means Justin Verlander takes the mound Thursday with Detroit still holding a 2½-game lead in the AL Central. Verlander has lost his past two decisions and has given up five runs in each of his past two outings.

Padres at Rockies, 8:40 p.m. ET

The Rockies, who have spent much of the month keeping a close eye on the Giants, must now pay attention to the Braves, who trail by four games in the wild card. Jason Hammel has been hit hard in three starts against the Padres, posting a 7.30 ERA and .357 batting average against in those three outings.

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.


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10 p.m. ET
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Buster Olney, Fernando Vina, Orestes Destrade
12 a.m. ET
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Fernando Vina, Orestes Destrade




Carlos Guillen• The Twins are trying to close on the Tigers, but Detroit keeps winning. Carlos Guillen had a big hand in the Tigers' 11-3 thrashing of the Indians, homering twice in a 3-for-4 night. He drove home four runs in the victory.
Brad LidgeBrad Lidge blew his majors-leading 11th save, coughing up a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the ninth against the Marlins in the Phillies' 7-6 loss. Lidge, who did not blow a save all of last season -- including in the playoffs -- has an 0-8 record this year to go with his 11 blown saves.


Vicente PadillaVicente Padilla struggled through the first four months of the season before the Rangers designated him for assignment on Aug. 8.

Like Brad Penny and John Smoltz, a move to the National League has been a great remedy. In five starts for the Dodgers, Padilla is 3-0 with a 2.82 ERA; all three wins have been on the road, where he will attempt to defeat the Nationals on Thursday and keep the Dodgers on top in the race for home-field advantage in the NL.

The key to Padilla's success with the Dodgers has been an improvement in his curveball. He's been throwing the pitch more frequently and recording strikes more than two-thirds of the time when he throws the curve. And when the opposing hitters make contact, they're reaching base less than half as often as they did when Padilla toed the rubber for the Rangers.

Padilla's curveball (2009)
With Rangers With Dodgers
Pitch pct. 9.9 14.1
Swing pct. 36.4 52.4
Strike pct. 59.7 69.8
BA against .340 .167

-- ESPN Stats & Information


Fantasy AJ Mass examines the nine games on Thursday's slate.

Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes


Here's the latest in the wild-card races:

Tigers 81-70 -- 76.2%
Twins 79-73 2.5 23.8%
Rockies 86-66 -- 84.8%
Braves 82-70 4.0 7.8%
Giants 82-70 4.0 5.6%
Marlins 82-71 4.5 2.0%

For more on all the playoff races, see the Hunt for October