Posted by Mike Frohwirth
After Monday's win over the Washington Nationals, the Phillies optioned RHP Vance Worley to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (AAA). A corresponding move has not yet been announced.
Is this move meant to send a message to Worley, who recently complained to the press about his usage?
Doubtful. After his start on May 24th, Worley was critical of Phillies' Management's decision to keep him in the MLB bullpen for most of May. Worley's workload during May was very inconsistent, and making no starts between May 4th and May 24th was not ideal. This usage may very well have been a factor in Worley's sub-par starts on May 24th and May 29th. However, it seems likely that this roster move is for competitive reasons, rather than punitive. The Phillies likely counseled Worley behind closed doors, and let the matter drop.
Have the Phillies lost confidence in Worley's ability as a starting pitcher?
Also doubtful. Worley had two good starts (April 29th, May 4th) and two poor starts (May 24th, May 29th). The Phillies aren't going to read too much into that small sample. With RHP Joe Blanton on the DL, possibly until the All-Star break (or longer), Worley is the fifth best starter currently in the organization. The Phils need to get Worley back on a regular starter's routine, so he can perform optimally.
So, who is the 5th starter, in Worley's absence?
The real question here is "When do the Phillies need a 5th starter again?" Let's look at the upcoming schedule with projected starters:
Tue 5/31 Cliff Lee
Wed 6/1 Roy Oswalt
Thur 6/2 Off
Fri 6/3 Cole Hamels
Sat 6/4 Roy Halladay
Sun 6/5 Cliff Lee
Mon 6/6 Roy Oswalt
Tue 6/7 ???
The Phillies can skip the 5th starter once, with the off day on Thursday. Assuming they keep their top four starters on normal rest (highly likely), they won't need another starter until Tue 6/7.
Worley is not eligible to return to the Phillies, until he has spent ten days in the minor leagues (unless the Phillies place a pitcher on the DL, in which case Worley could return sooner). Without a corresponding DL assignment, Worley is not eligible to return to MLB until 6/10. The guess here is that reliever Kyle Kendrick will make a spot start on 6/7, and Worley will return to the rotation on 6/12.
What roster move(s) should the Phillies make in the interim?
The Phillies, including Kendrick, currently have a seven-man bullpen. In order to start on Tuesday, Kendrick probably shouldn't pitch after Friday. So, the Phillies should add another reliever on Friday, if not sooner.
With games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and a day off on Thursday, the Phillies could recall a position player for Tuesday and Wednesday, and return him to AAA for a reliever on Thursday or Friday. Bench players Ross Gload and Michael Martinez have very limited usefulness, so another decent bat could come in handy. The Phillies can easily open another spot on the 40-Man Roster, as minor league infielder Harold Garcia is out for the season. Moving Garcia to the 60-Day DL would enable the Phillies to add a player to the 40-Man Roster.
Non 40-Man roster IronPigs outfielder Brandon Moss would be the best choice, with Delwyn Young and Josh Barfield also worthy of (some, but not much) consideration. However, none of these players have any minor league options remaining. The Phillies would have to return the player to AAA via waivers, and could potentially lose his rights. For a two-game recall, such a move is probably not worth the risk.
Of the players with option(s) remaining (and/or on the 40-Man Roster), infielder Pete Orr would likely be the best possible position player choice for a two-day recall. Orr has limitations, but he is better than Michael Martinez, and less injured than Ross Gload. If Orr is the best choice for a short-term recall, however, the Phils will probably just add an additional relief pitcher on Tuesday.
Which AAA reliever gets the call?
David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, and Mike Zagurski are all on the 40-Man roster, and could be optioned back to AAA, without passing through waivers. Given that this recall may last less than two weeks, the Phillies likely won't risk a waiver claim, by promoting a reliever without option(s) remaining. Herndon and Mathieson have both pitched well in recent AAA appearances. Herndon has been more successful at the MLB level, so the guess here is that he'll get the recall tomorrow.