Watching the mlb.tv broadcast today. Adam Eaton looked fairly sharp, throwing three scoreless innings--yes, you read that right--to start the game. Eaton allowed five hits, but two or three of them were wind-blown bloops. He had a few pitches working, the slider particularly, and recorded a couple strikeouts. On the offensive side, Ryan Howard mashed another opposite-field bomb before I turned the game on, then worked a walk after being down 0-2. Howard really could be primed to do some special things this year.
But Eaton's good mound vibes didn't carry over to J.D. Durbin, who came on in the fourth inning. The Real Deal escaped a leadoff walk in that frame, but did the same in the 5th and surrendered three runs, on an RBI double and a two-run homer, and then two more in the 6th, including a leadoff home run.
The Phillies are playing the Twins today, and the broadcast is on the regional sports network in the Twin Cities area. These announcers know Durbin, a second-round Twins draft pick, quite well, and they've come back again and again to the bewildering mystery of this talented and healthy pitcher. Durbin has a good fastball, sharp breaking stuff, very little command, and no idea how to pitch. The first homer he surrendered, to Twins outfield hopeful Carlos Gomez, came on a hanging slider right after he'd pumped a high fastball by Gomez for strike two. Later he gave up a bomb to Jason Kubel on the first pitch of the 6th, a hit-me fastball that Durbin offered in the hope that he wouldn't walk the leadoff guy for the third straight inning.
The Phillies remain desperate for someone to assert control in this fifth-starter race, and Eaton's solid work today--man, that's weird to write--probably puts him in the lead. J.D. Durbin, meanwhile, seems set up for another trip through the waiver wires. You don't want to give up on him--he certainly wouldn't be the first guy to have the light come on in his late 20s--but he can't help the team right now, and he's likely to get claimed. It's unfortunate that Real Deal and Rosario, the two guys with the best stuff in this competition, have the worst command (you could put Fabio Castro in this group too, but at least he can be optioned) and seem too much of a risk to throw in for a team with big hopes in 2008.