With just a week left in the minor-league season, the Phillies’ clubhouse is about to get a little more crowded. Rosters expand to 40 men on September 1, and the Phils—with a short bench and at-times overworked bullpen—figure to utilize some relief. So who might we see for the last month of the season?
As he so often does, assistant GM Mike Arbuckle poured some cold water on fans’ hopes of seeing some of the organization’s more highly touted prospects. Shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson, stars of the U.S. bronze medal-winning baseball team, are heading back to Reading from Beijing for now, and they’re unlikely to continue on to Philadelphia before the end of the season. About the best Arbuckle offers is that "both guys are making significant progress and have [earned]… consideration to be here at some point next year." The most prominent Reading teammate they left behind, outfielder Greg Golson, probably isn’t coming either.
(But that's okay; who could argue that there's any need for improvement on the part of the Phils' catchers, backup SS Eric Bruntlett, or pinch-hitter/pinch-runner/defensive replacement extraordinaire So Taguchi?)
Thus, probably nobody from Reading… well, unless you count this guy, who might get a recall but is pretty much certain not to appear in anything resembling a key situation. To be fair, his ERA in double-A is more than two runs lower than what he did in low-A…
How about the Phillies’ other last-place entrant in the high minors, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs? Already, current Pigs pitchers J.A. Happ, R.J. Swindle, Les Walrond and (though he didn’t get into a game) Joe Bisenius, as well as hitters Mike Cervenak, Chris Snelling and T.J. Bohn, have passed through. On the pitching side, there’s also Kris Benson, the rehabbing pitcher the club signed rather than Kyle Lohse; Carlos Carrasco, who pitched another gem Sunday night and has a 2.10 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 30 triple-A innings; Fabio Castro, the undersized lefty who worked out of the Phillies bullpen in stints during the 2006 and 2007 seasons; and Travis Blackley, the former Rule 5 selection who competed for a rotation spot last spring.
Of the pitchers, my guess is that Benson gets recalled as something of a courtesy, as well as Happ and one of the three other lefties: Castro, Swindle and Walrond. My preference would be Castro, who has the best stuff and has enjoyed some success in the majors. Carrasco might have pitched himself into consideration for a rotation job next spring, but the team might feel that 150 innings—the total he’ll likely crack after his last Lehigh Valley start next weekend—is enough for this 21 year-old arm. They could use him out of the bullpen in September, but that’s an unaccustomed role for Carrasco with more risk than reward. Happ, Castro and Swindle are already on the 40-man roster; Benson, Walrond and Carrasco are not. But the Phils have four pitchers--Tom Gordon, Scott Mathieson, Francisco Rosario and Mike Zagurski--who can be moved from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list, freeing up spots.
On the positional side, Snelling likely will come back—if he can stay healthy between now and Sept. 1, anyway—and it would be a big surprise if the Phillies didn’t recall catcher Jason Jaramillo simply to give Charlie Manuel more late-game options. With Andy Tracy already on the active roster, the odds for Cervenak or Bohn getting the call might be lower; more useful would be one or both of Rich Thompson and Brandon Watson, slap-hitting outfielders who would have represented an upgrade on Taguchi two months ago. Thompson has 25 steals in 27 attempts and a walk rate near 10 percent; Watson has a higher batting average and played in the majors for Washington last year, and at age 26 he’s faintly more prospect-like. Only Jaramillo is on the 40-man right now, but in addition to the flexibility gained by moving Zagurski et al to the 60-day, there's considerable dead weight that could be cut loose: Oscar Robles, Cervenak, even Taguchi.
My prediction is that Benson, Happ, Castro and Eaton are recalled to bolster the pitching staff, and that Jaramillo, Snelling, and Watson take spots at the end of the Phillies’ bench. My preference would be to see those same three pitchers from Lehigh Valley, and Jaramillo, Snelling, Donald, Marson and Golson on the positional side. Here’s hoping there’s at least one Marty Bystrom 1980 or Len Matuszek 1983 in the bunch.