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June 18, 2009 3:35 PM

Phillies Navigate their Dark Period

.MLB: MAY 08 Braves at Phillies

It was the great musician Dewey Cox who once said, "This is my dark (expletive deleted) period!" None of the Phillies have had to deal with the trauma of losing both of their wives to free agency at the same time, or the accidental machete-halving of a younger sibling. (Though "The Pen" could reveal otherwise in future episodes, particularly if MLBN brings in Ugueth Urbina for a ratings-grabbing cameo.) But the team has faced quite a bit of adversity this week, and the darkness is beginning to permeate the Phils' roster, as well as the fans' collective psyche.

The week started with the dizzying highs of a victory over the 2009 AL Champion Red Sox, and the bullpen's ascension into reality television stardom. Unfortunately, in Tuesday night's come-from-ahead loss to Toronto, the 'pen displayed signs of vertigo, turning a 3-2 Hamels victory, into a walk-riddled 8-3 defeat. "Everyday" Clay Condrey retired one batter in the tenth, while allowing five runs. Condrey wasn't helped by newly-promoted, should-be-a-ROOGY, Tyler Walker, who permitted three inherited runners to score. After logging four innings on Tuesday night, the Phils' relief corps worked another three frames on Wednesday. Jamie Moyer ate only six-plus innings, surrendering six runs, in the 7-1 loss.

The Phillies' offense, which almost solely consisted of daily home runs by Jayson Werth, didn't offer the pitchers much support. For the most part, the Phils' bats were quieted by Jays' starters Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond. Having their mighty bats overpowered by Romero and Richmond, who are not exactly household names, was rather embarrasing, right? Well, if your household hasn't heard of these two starters, they may be in need of some additional Baseball Education. Even if you choose not to pay attention to such things as the "American League", Romero is a first-round draft pick, who has overcome injury issues to put up some good starts this season. Richmond appears to have overcome the disappointment of not appearing for Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, winning the AL Rookie of the Month award in April, and helping the starting pitching issue-laden Jays remain competitive. Losing to these two more-than-serviceable pitchers was disconcerting, but far from embarrassing. (Does anyone else think of Scott D. Service whenever they see the phrase "serviceable pitcher?" Never mind.)

The overuse of the Phillies' bullpen? Now, that's embarrassing. The Phillies have reduced their bullpen crew to six relievers, or 6.05 relievers, if you count Jack Taschner. The Phillies' starting pitchers have been, routinely, pitching only five or six innings a game. Well, except for when they pitch less, sometimes much less. The Phillies need their bullpenners to have fully-functioning throwing arms during the postseason, but that doesn't seem likely at their current pace. It doesn't appear that the starting pitchers are likely to suddenly start going deeper into games, increasing their bullpen size by 1.95 relievers seems to be necessary. Taschner needs to be relied upon, at minimum, to fill in some innings on a regular basis. Preferably low-leverage innings, considering his performance-to-date. If Taschner can't handle such a role, or Manager Charlie Manuel doesn't feel he can rely on him in those situations, Taschner needs to be replaced.

Third-string catcher Paul Bako was added to the roster, at the expense of a reliever, to serve as a deterrent to the use of Eric Bruntlett as a pinch-hitter. Even ignoring the illogic of utilizing 4% of your roster, for the purpose of discouraging the use of another 4%, this personnel move has not worked. Bruntlett still escapes the Phillies' dugout on a regular basis, much to the dismay of Phillies fans everywhere. Bako needs to be replaced by a reliever now, before any million-dollar appendages are found by bullpen coach Mick Billimeyer.

The height of the Dark Period may have occurred Thursday, when MVP Raul Ibanez was placed on the DL. Ibanez has been plagued by groin issues, and may be out longer than fifteen days. There was no way the Phillies could have predicted that playing a 37 year-old outfielder just about every inning, with the exception of his DH Days at New Yankee Stadium, might lead to an injury. The loss of Ibanez is almost too demoralizing for this blogger to consider right now. So, we'll try to draw some positives from the situation. Ibanez will, finally, get some days off. John Mayberry has been recalled, and will get some MLB at bats. (Hopefully, against southpaws, for the most part.) Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs should see some time against right-handers, and more regular appearances should help the two bench players. When Mayberry is on the bench, the Phils have a viable (i.e. non-Bruntlett) right-handed pinch-hitting option, besides Chris Coste. (Maybe this will help encourage the removal of Bako from the roster...) Losing Ibanez, with closer Brad Lidge and #2 starter Brett Myers already on the DL, is tough. But the Phillies have enough talent to remain in the division race, and it's better to lose Ibanez and Lidge to injury now, than in September.

Joe Blanton starts for the Phils against Toronto on Thursday afternoon. The over/under for Phillies' relievers needed is four. (The "over" would be the smart bet.) The Phillies have the ability to escape their Dark Period, just as Dewey Cox did. Will the Phils will be able to reach Cox' level of all-encompassing brilliance? That remains to be seen, but it's going to continue to be quite the ride.


.MLB: MAY 08 Braves at Phillies

It was the great musician Dewey Cox who once said, "This is my dark (expletive deleted) period!" None of the Phillies have had to deal with the trauma of losing both of their wives to free agency at the same time, or the accidental machete-halving of a younger sibling. (Though "The Pen" could reveal otherwise in future episodes, particularly if MLBN brings in Ugueth Urbina for a ratings-grabbing cameo.) But the team has faced quite a bit of adversity this week, and the darkness is beginning to permeate the Phils' roster, as well as the fans' collective psyche.

The week started with the dizzying highs of a victory over the 2009 AL Champion Red Sox, and the bullpen's ascension into reality television stardom. Unfortunately, in Tuesday night's come-from-ahead loss to Toronto, the 'pen displayed signs of vertigo, turning a 3-2 Hamels victory, into a walk-riddled 8-3 defeat. "Everyday" Clay Condrey retired one batter in the tenth, while allowing five runs. Condrey wasn't helped by newly-promoted, should-be-a-ROOGY, Tyler Walker, who permitted three inherited runners to score. After logging four innings on Tuesday night, the Phils' relief corps worked another three frames on Wednesday. Jamie Moyer ate only six-plus innings, surrendering six runs, in the 7-1 loss.

The Phillies' offense, which almost solely consisted of daily home runs by Jayson Werth, didn't offer the pitchers much support. For the most part, the Phils' bats were quieted by Jays' starters Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond. Having their mighty bats overpowered by Romero and Richmond, who are not exactly household names, was rather embarrasing, right? Well, if your household hasn't heard of these two starters, they may be in need of some additional Baseball Education. Even if you choose not to pay attention to such things as the "American League", Romero is a first-round draft pick, who has overcome injury issues to put up some good starts this season. Richmond appears to have overcome the disappointment of not appearing for Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, winning the AL Rookie of the Month award in April, and helping the starting pitching issue-laden Jays remain competitive. Losing to these two more-than-serviceable pitchers was disconcerting, but far from embarrassing. (Does anyone else think of Scott D. Service whenever they see the phrase "serviceable pitcher?" Never mind.)

The overuse of the Phillies' bullpen? Now, that's embarrassing. The Phillies have reduced their bullpen crew to six relievers, or 6.05 relievers, if you count Jack Taschner. The Phillies' starting pitchers have been, routinely, pitching only five or six innings a game. Well, except for when they pitch less, sometimes much less. The Phillies need their bullpenners to have fully-functioning throwing arms during the postseason, but that doesn't seem likely at their current pace. It doesn't appear that the starting pitchers are likely to suddenly start going deeper into games, increasing their bullpen size by 1.95 relievers seems to be necessary. Taschner needs to be relied upon, at minimum, to fill in some innings on a regular basis. Preferably low-leverage innings, considering his performance-to-date. If Taschner can't handle such a role, or Manager Charlie Manuel doesn't feel he can rely on him in those situations, Taschner needs to be replaced.

Third-string catcher Paul Bako was added to the roster, at the expense of a reliever, to serve as a deterrent to the use of Eric Bruntlett as a pinch-hitter. Even ignoring the illogic of utilizing 4% of your roster, for the purpose of discouraging the use of another 4%, this personnel move has not worked. Bruntlett still escapes the Phillies' dugout on a regular basis, much to the dismay of Phillies fans everywhere. Bako needs to be replaced by a reliever now, before any million-dollar appendages are found by bullpen coach Mick Billimeyer.

The height of the Dark Period may have occurred Thursday, when MVP Raul Ibanez was placed on the DL. Ibanez has been plagued by groin issues, and may be out longer than fifteen days. There was no way the Phillies could have predicted that playing a 37 year-old outfielder just about every inning, with the exception of his DH Days at New Yankee Stadium, might lead to an injury. The loss of Ibanez is almost too demoralizing for this blogger to consider right now. So, we'll try to draw some positives from the situation. Ibanez will, finally, get some days off. John Mayberry has been recalled, and will get some MLB at bats. (Hopefully, against southpaws, for the most part.) Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs should see some time against right-handers, and more regular appearances should help the two bench players. When Mayberry is on the bench, the Phils have a viable (i.e. non-Bruntlett) right-handed pinch-hitting option, besides Chris Coste. (Maybe this will help encourage the removal of Bako from the roster...) Losing Ibanez, with closer Brad Lidge and #2 starter Brett Myers already on the DL, is tough. But the Phillies have enough talent to remain in the division race, and it's better to lose Ibanez and Lidge to injury now, than in September.

Joe Blanton starts for the Phils against Toronto on Thursday afternoon. The over/under for Phillies' relievers needed is four. (The "over" would be the smart bet.) The Phillies have the ability to escape their Dark Period, just as Dewey Cox did. Will the Phils will be able to reach Cox' level of all-encompassing brilliance? That remains to be seen, but it's going to continue to be quite the ride.

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