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Phillies pitching depth is in transition

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The Phillies pitching depth took a big hit this weekend, which could force the Phils to make the future happen sooner than they want.

Severino Gonzalez is going to be in the rotation for a while.
Severino Gonzalez is going to be in the rotation for a while.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have been getting hit hard with injuries so far this season.

First, it was the unsurprising departure of Cliff Lee from our lives with his eternally balky elbow. Anyone expecting to see him back this year is kidding themselves.

The less-than-impressive David Buchanan, who was sent to Triple-A a couple weeks ago, is out 6-8 weeks after injuring himself trying to field a ground ball in a game for the Iron Pigs. He has a severely sprained ankle, and he's lucky it's not more serious than that.

And the Phils have placed Chad Billingsley on the disabled list just three starts into his comeback attempt with a right shoulder strain. He's expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

This on top of the fact the team is actively listening to offers on at least two of their pitchers, Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang. The pitching situation in the Phillies organization is what you would call, thin.

That's why they sent the oft-traded "Cash Considerations" (picture below)...

...to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for 30-year-old minor league pitcher Chris Leroux, whose career numbers in the minors are less than inspiring. I even asked a Marlins blogger if he could give me a quick scouting report on Leroux.

Good enough for me.

So what's on the horizon? Happily, there are younger pitchers in the minors that, while most don't project to be superstars, could potentially help the team as slog through their "awkward" phase.

Severino Gonzalez has been recalled from Lehigh to start Wednesday at Coors Field in Colorado. The 22-year-old has made two starts for the Phils this season, a 2 2/3 inning disaster against St. Louis in which he yielded 7 earned runs and 10 hits, and a 5 inning start in which he gave up 2 earned runs on five hits. He'll join starters Sean O'Sullivan, who appears to have solidified a spot in the rotation, and Jerome Williams, who will keep making more starts as well.

The exciting thing is that the Phils appear to have some interesting young arms down on the farm. Phillippe Aumont is off to a hot start this season with a 1.36 ERA in eight games (four starts). Adam Morgan has made seven starts for the Iron Pigs and has a 4.35 ERA while striking out just 3.7 batters per nine. And Jolely Rodriguez has started eight games for Lehigh with a 6.05 ERA. He's struck out 22 and walked 20 in 41.2 innings.

Looking at the Reading names, last year's number-one pick Aaron Nola has been outstanding with a 1.77 ERA in 7 starts, striking out 32 and walking just 5 in 45.2 innings. Zach Eflin has a 2.74 ERA in seven starts, with 18 strikeouts and 9 walks in 42.2 innings. Ben Lively has started six games with a 3.06 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. And there's Jesse Biddle, with a 4.84 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 17 walks in 35.1 innings.

Now, don't expect to see any of those Reading Phils pitchers throwing for the big league club yet. The team isn't likely to skip a level with any of their promising young arms, especially Nola.

The thing to understand about the Phillies right now is that Major League results don't matter. They don't need a couple of shut-down arms to help them make the playoffs and stay in a pennant race. What the Phils need are pitchers who can soak up innings and keep things from getting embarrassing.

That's where pitchers like Aumont, Morgan and Rodriguez come in. If the Phils were to lose another arm, either in trade or by injury, any one of them could potentially end up as a rotation piece until the more higher profile prospects like Nola and Eflin are ready.

And of course, the team could add another veteran from free agency or trade for another team's extra arm, like they did with Leroux.

The state of the Phillies pitching staff is in transition and it may get uglier before it gets better. That's the way it works in a rebuild sometimes.