The Phillies currently sit at four games under .500. While that leaves them just 4.5 games back in the NL East heading into the day’s action, the team is carrying a -34 run differential (third-worst in baseball) and falls among the bottom five clubs in the game in hitting, pitching, and defense by measure of fWAR. Here are a few notes out of Philadelphia:
- The club received some bad news on the injury front today. Righty Jonathan Pettibone, who was expected to be an important part of the rotation mix this year and in the future, has been placed on the minor league DL and will visit Dr. James Andrews to explore the possibility of surgery on his ailing right shoulder, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. After entering 2013 rated fourth by Baseball America among the organization’s prospects, Pettibone delivered 18 solid starts of 4.04 ERA ball. But he was shut down with shoulder troubles, and managed only two MLB starts this year (allowing nine earned in just nine innings).
- In more positive news, international free agent signee Miguel Gonzalez has begun working through the low minors and is throwing in the low-to-mid 90s. “His control was a little off, but it sounds like he’s healthy,” said manager Ryne Sandberg. “He must be healthy if he’s throwing that hard. Now it’s just about getting his games in.”
- The Phillies’ bullpen was an area that many thought could have used additional help, and the club has paid the price for failing to make any moves. Zolecki writes that the club’s talent evaluators believed they had the necessary pieces in place. “Looking back doesn’t do us all that much good,” said Amaro. “What we have to do is find either internal solutions to improve or just hope that the guys start to do their thing.”
- One tantalizing option for relief help — young fireballer Ken Giles — will not be aggressively promoted, Amaro said, while also indicating that the same holds true for top prospect Maikel Franco. “We’re not going to force them because some other guys aren’t performing,” said Amaro. “They can’t be saviors for us. They might be able to help us at some point, but when they’re ready, when they have forced our hand to do it, they’ll come.”
- The cost to acquire center fielder Ben Revere still looks low in retrospect, argues Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com, with Vance Worley falling apart and Trevor May still not quite matching results to his talent for the Twins. (I would push back somewhat on the characterization of May, who is a fairly valuable asset that could have been an important piece this year in Philly. Baseball America ranked him 8th in a deep group of Minnesota prospects, and he has 10.5 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 in his first seven starts at the Triple-A level.) But while the deal seems okay in terms of value, says Seidman, that does not mean that it delivered a starter to Philadelphia. With middling defense, non-existent power, and lagging on-base numbers, Seidman argues that Revere is entering his prime years playing like a late-career Juan Pierre. Needless to say, the club would face yet more questions if Revere is not the answer in center for the next several years.
- GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that some of the club’s difficulties to start the year can be attributed to “part of the growing pains you have with young players,” Revere among them, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Though that comment strikes an unmistakably ironic chord for the veteran-laden Phils, Zolecki points out that the team’s aging, big-dollar stars are actually playing quite well on the whole, while its younger assets are scuffling. That is indeed the case — as the team’s fWAR hitter and pitcher leaderboards show, the team has thus far received a positive net contribution from just one player who has yet to turn 30 (Jake Diekman). It appears that the warning in my review of the Phillies’ offseason could be coming to pass; as I wrote then, even if the team gets production from all of its elder statesmen, the rest of the roster may not be good enough to support a legitimate post-season run. It is not as if injuries are to blame. With Darin Ruf returning from injury, there is little argument that the Philles are at “full strength” in terms of available personnel, notes Justin Klugh of the Philadelphia Inquirer.