Carpenter is ready, but for what?

The demotion of Kyle Kendrick (5-4, 4.82) was a surprise only because the
Phillies are slow to make such moves these days. After another rough outing
Monday night in St. Louis, in which Kendrick allowed three home runs in the
fifth inning alone, apparently, the Phillies felt the move to do something;
anything. Kendrick had shown that while he could be good for a while – a 3.13
ERA in the month of May – ultimately, he just might not be cut out for the job
of a major league starter, especially considering that his ERA in the fifth
inning of games this season is over 11.

Maybe, the Phillies have seen enough and realize that it’s now or never if
they’re going to start fixing this wounded ballclub. The demotion of Kendrick
and subsequent promotion right-hander Drew Carpenter (7-6, 3.41 at Lehigh
Valley) is a needed move, but might not be the end of the moves. Carpenter last
pitched on Friday, throwing 79 pitches in a no-decision against Louisville,
meaning that his next scheduled day to pitch would be Wednesday, but the
Phillies don’t really need a starter until Kendrick’s turn would come up again
on Saturday. It’s unusual for a club to promote a starter if he’s not going to
start in the next day or two, at most. Otherwise, they generally will promote
someone else, who can contribute for even just a few days before bringing the
starter officially aboard the active roster. If that’s the case, then Carpenter
will join the Phillies bullpen and there’s another move coming in time for
Saturday’s game against Colorado. If Carpenter will be working out of the
bullpen, he’s likely ready to go after three-days rest from his last minor
league start.

It’s possible that Lehigh Valley’s Tuesday night starter – J.A. Happ – will
make a short appearance in his start and go on three-days rest to pitch for the
Phillies on Saturday. That assumption is questionable though, because Happ was
getting hit hard in his rehab assignment, which is why he was optioned directly
to Lehigh Valley after being activated. Since officially being activated and
optioned, Happ has made just two starts – near identical in their numbers –
going five innings in each and allowing three earned runs in each, which isn’t
exactly showing any improvement over his rehab starts with Lehigh Valley, where
he threw 9 1/3 innings in two starts and allowed six earned runs. It’s hard to
believe that the Phillies have seen enough improvement in Happ to promote him to
the majors.

Nate Bump (7-4, 3.15 at Lehigh Valley) started Monday night for the IronPigs,
on the same schedule as Kendrick, but he was hit hard for eight earned runs in
two innings of work, which isn’t exactly the type of outing that gets you
promoted. However, if the Phillies are looking at the body of his work, there is
no denying that Bump has been very good this season.

That leaves a potential trade to fill the spot in the Phillies rotation. A
quick look at starters who are on a schedule to start on Saturday pumps out the
name Ben Sheets, who pitched a near-gem for Oakland last night, but lost 2-1 to
the Red Sox. Sheets is expensive – $4 million guaranteed, plus $2 million in
likely incentives for the rest of the season – and has a 4.53 ERA with Oakland
this season, making him a pitcher who might not seem to have a lot going for him
on the trade market. If the A’s were to pick up part of his contract, however,
maybe the Phillies could hope to catch a pitcher who may come relatively cheaply
in terms of prospects and turn him into a productive piece of their rotation for
the rest of the season.

If there is nothing else in the works, maybe Carpenter is the guy. That
wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. He deserves a true shot at pitching in
the majors and his stuff is likely good enough for him to succeed as a
back-of-the-rotation type of guy, at the very least. Don’t look at his major
league stats that he’s compiled so far, because in three of those outings, he
was pitching in relief, a very unfamiliar territory for him. In his lone start,
he made an emergency appearance against Washington in a pouring-down rain, also
not an ideal way to gauge a young pitcher. Instead, it’s worth looking at
Carpenter in a much better light. He has been consistent in his 44 Triple-A
outings, posting an ERA of 3.35 and a record of 18-13 for a team that has been
pretty rough record-wise during Carpenter’s stay with the club.

Carpenter isn’t a strikeout pitcher – 428 Ks in 587 minor league innings –
but he is a guy who relies on his control and has issued 2.8 walks per nine
innings over his minor league career. He also has allowed just under one home
run per nine innings, which all Phillies pitchers strive for to prove that they
can pitch in Citizens Bank Park. If the Phillies wanted a long-man for the
bullpen, they had one in Nelson Figueroa or they could have taken a look at
Brandon Duckworth (4-3, 3.56 at Lehigh Valley) or Brian Gordon (1-1, 3.93 at
Lehigh Valley), both of whom have put up strong numbers for the IronPigs and
also have the capability of pitching a couple of innings at a time, or even more
in Duckworth’s case.

Another potential reason for Carpenter getting the call is a showcase. You
always have to look at moves carefully at this time of the season and figure if
there is an ulterior motive. After all, if Carpenter pitches either in long
relief or in Kendrick’s spot in the rotation, he can likely give the club at
least what Kendrick was giving them and possibly more, while providing other
clubs a chance to see him against major league competition. It’s a win-win for
both sides.

There well could be another shoe to drop and it will be wise to keep an eye
open for other moves that the Phillies may make here and there. Perhaps, the
front office realized how late it’s getting and they’ve decided to at least
start sending some messages to help provide a wake-up call for their slumbering
major league club.

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