With injuries to Blanton, Romero and Lidge, are the Phillies in trouble?

After the club acquired Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays over the offseason, there aren’t too many (if any) media publications that are predicting against the Phillies in the NL East this season.

But with Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge set to start the season on the disabled list, should the Phillies be concerned?

Blanton has never been an overpowering pitcher, but he’s been a rock in the middle of the Phillies’ starting rotation since he was acquired from the A’s a couple years ago. He’ll miss anywhere from 3-6 weeks after tweaking his oblique muscle during a recent throwing session and now Kyle Kendrick (who lost out to Jamie Moyer for the club’s fifth starter spot) will take his place.

Romero underwent surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow last October and isn’t ready to return, although he is progressing faster in his rehab than Lidge. Both pitchers aren’t expected to return until mid April at the earliest.

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Phillies began long-term extension talks with Lee

According to Mark J. Miller of Yahoo Sports, the Phillies have begun preliminary talks with ace Cliff Lee about a contract extension.

The Philadelphia Phillies got Cliff Lee this summer and knew he was good, but didn’t know he’d be that good. The guy cruised through the postseason, making behind-the-back catches, stealing a base, seemingly annoying former Phils ace Cole Hamels, and, of course, racking up wins. He went 4-0 in five starts with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason after going 7-4 in 12 starts for Philadelphia in the regular season.

The Phils would love Lee to continue doing that last one for them for a long time to come and the team and Lee’s agent have apparently entered into talks on a possible long-term contract, according to New York Newsday. Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, says that he and the team have had “very preliminary talks” about an extension.

I’ve always been of the mindset that if a club trades multiple prospects for a player that they should lock said player up long-term. After all, if that player was worth giving up part of your future, then he should be worth a long-term investment.

Lee was brilliant for the Phillies last year and there’s no reason to think that he can’t be great again over the course of a full season. Philadelphia is built to win now, so it would make sense that they lock up their ace with an extension.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Victorino ejected for arguing balls and strikes…from centerfield.

It’s not everyday that you see a player get ejected for arguing balls and strikes from centerfield. But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday when Phillies’ outfielder Shane Victorino was tossed during a loss to the Marlins.

Here’s the umpire’s explanation for ejecting Victorino from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“The third pitch was called a ball and he was out there waving his arms like this,” said Rapuano, imitating Victorino. “So I stepped out, took my mask off, looked out there and gestured. Again, he went [waving his arms] and I said that’s it. You can’t do that from center field. I gave him the chance to not do it again.”

Wow – great explanation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a player being ejected for raising his arms in frustration over an umpire’s (brutal) ball and strike calls.

Umpires feel way too empowered these days.

Phillies acquire ace Cliff Lee from Indians

Jayson Stark is reporting that the Phillies have officially acquired Indians’ ace Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco for four minor leaguers.

Triple-A right-hander Carlos Carrasco, Single-A righty Jason Knapp, catcher Lou Marson — the likely heir apparent to Victor Martinez — and shortstop Jason Donald will be sent to Cleveland.
The trade is pending physical exams.

The Phillies weren’t required to give up pitcher J.A. Happ or the three prospects they balked at trading for Roy Halladay — outfielders Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, and pitcher Kyle Drabek.

The Phillies get an ace (and a former Cy Young winner) and don’t have to give up prospects Kyle Drabek or Dominic Brown? Or J.A. Happ? Wow. Complete victory. That’s not to say that the Indians were losers in this deal because they are trying to acquire more young talent to restock their farm system. But it’s amazing that Philly was able to get the second best arm on the trade market without giving up their best prospect.

The Phillies are now set for another World Series run with a rotation that now features Lee, Happ, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer. The Dodgers still have the best record in baseball, but this move might put Philadelphia in the driver’s seat in the NL.

As for the Indians, fans have come to trust GM Mark Shaprio’s judgment when it comes to trades, but they must be a little disappointed that they didn’t get Drabek or another young arm (i.e. the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw). But the reality is that one good season doesn’t mean that a team can get a haul for a specific player. Lee was outstanding last year and is an excellent pitcher, but he isn’t Roy Halladay and therefore the Tribe still did well to get Carrasco and Knapp, even if they couldn’t land Drabek.

Pedro Martinez a good signing for Phils

Any time a team can add a three-time Cy Young winner who has a World Series ring and can still throw 90 mph as a fifth starter, it’s usually a good thing. And when that three-time Cy Young winner only costs the club $1 million, it’s a great thing.

The defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies signed Pedro Martinez to a one-year, $1 million contract on Wednesday in hopes he can rekindle some of the magic that has made him an eight-time All-Star over his career. While they did have to immediately place him on the 15-day DL with an shoulder strain, the club thinks that Martinez might be ready to pitch on July 30 when the Phillies open a series in San Francisco.

This was a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Phils. Given Philly’s offensive firepower, Martinez essentially just has to give the club quality outings. They don’t need him to strikeout 10 batters a game or work into the eighth inning every outing, they just need him to stay healthy and keep them in ballgames. And even if he doesn’t stay healthy, then the Phillies would be in no worse shape then they were before they signed him.

If Pedro pitches well and the Phils can hold off the Marlins, Braves and Mets in the NL East, then the Phillies will have a starting postseason rotation of Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Martinez, with Jamie Moyer moving to the pen to provide some long relief. That’s not a bad rotation, especially if Happ (6-0, 2.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) can continue pitching as well as he has up to this point in the season.

Again, if Martinez’s arm or shoulder craps out again, then the Phillies essentially waste $1 million this year. But if he pitches well, then he was worth the investment – especially considering he wanted $5 million for one season (or so reports claim).

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