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Beggars Choose Rosario?

The more I think about this rotation kerfuffle the Phillies once again find themselves in, the more confused I get. I don't think I'm alone: at this point, choosing between Travis Blackley, the Durbins, Fabio Castro, Francisco Rosario, the rehabbing Kris Benson and the possibly injured and certainly awful Adam Eaton might be better left to a team of psychics than a clutch of coaches and front-office types.

Rosario, though, is about to start getting some buzz. After 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Kyle Kendrick (himself looking like no sure thing in his first big-league spring camp) and John Ennis, Rosario's Grapefruit League ERA is 1.04, and he's got 3 walks and 8 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings. As Beerleaguer noted the other day, he pitched well in a starting role this winter, including six shutout innings in the Caribbean Series. During his minor-league career in the Toronto organization, Rosario was exclusively a starter through 2004, and didn't fully convert to relief until the Blue Jays used him out of their bullpen in his initial two stints of MLB exposure during the 2006 season.  (This two year-old scouting report pegs the date at mid-2005.)

Rosario's triple-A line over two seasons (2005-2006) with the Syracuse Sky Chiefs isn't particularly revealing. His record is a miserable 2-10, but with a more than respectable 3.64 ERA and a 2.45 K/BB ratio in 158.3 innings. Rosario made 30 appearances, including 18 starts, in 2005, and 14 appearances including 8 starts the next year. A look at his 2006 minor-league game log isn't very revealing: his starts were short (just one even reaching the six-inning mark), but whether that's because of health concerns (Rosario missed the entire 2003 season recuperating from Tommy John, and seems to have been limited in the following two years), the decision that after his initial May promotion to Toronto he was and always would be a reliever, or some other reason, we don't know. Even as a "full-time" starter in 2004, though, Rosario wasn't exactly stretched out: he started in all 18 appearances that year between high-A and double-A, but totaled just 65.3 innings.

In his short big-league exposure with the Jays and Phillies, Rosario has shown that he has the stuff to compete--he's averaging 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched--but not the command. His walk rate is 5.3 per nine, compared to 3.2 in the minors. Like all too many others on the Philly staff, he's more a fly-ball pitcher than a grounder guy (more on this soon at TGP), and I don't think he really has the third pitch he needs to complement a live fastball and decent change as a starter. But beggars can't be choosers, and certainly the door is open for him.