When the 2013 season mercifully ended, it seemed like a reasonable bet that Jonathan Pettibone would follow up his solid rookie campaign with a job as the Phillies' fifth starter for 2014. A slew of signings, injuries, Manships and Hollandses later, this evidently will come to pass. Manager Ryne Sandberg wouldn't confirm it, but Pettibone is the likely choice to take the hill for Saturday's game against the Marlins.
Had Pettibone not hurt his shoulder early in spring training, this probably wouldn't have been an issue; the injury to Cole Hamels would have made him the clear favorite for the role, and Pettibone might even have competed with Roberto Hernandez for a more permanent rotation slot. In 18 starts last season, the big righty went 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA. A classic Phillies under-the-radar pitching prospect with low ceiling but high floor, Pettibone struck out just under six batters per nine while walking 3.4. In his first start this season for Lehigh Valley, he worked five innings and allowed three runs.
The other strong possibility to start Saturday was David Buchanan, who was on pace to pitch for the Phils Sunday before the rainout of the home opener required a fifth starter one day sooner. Buchanan has made two starts at Lehigh Valley, including a 93 pitch outing last night that, according to Sandberg, rendered him unavailable for Saturday's game. Skipping Buchanan also avoids the need to clear a space on the 40-man roster, as Pettibone is already on it. Jeff Manship remains the other alternative; currently in a long relief role, he could give the team three innings at the front of a "bullpen game."
The Phillies now hope that the fifth starter will make only two turns, as Hamels is progressing quickly in his rehab and could be ready as soon as April 22.