Phillies Notes: A spring search for replacement starters

Veteran righthander Aaron Cook can provide depth at triple A for the Phillies, while offering an option to fill gaps that occur in the club's rotation.
Veteran righthander Aaron Cook can provide depth at triple A for the Phillies, while offering an option to fill gaps that occur in the club's rotation. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 20, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Whenever a Phillies starter succumbed to injury in recent years, the solution was uncomplicated. Kyle Kendrick was plucked from the bullpen, inserted into the rotation, and the Phillies cherished that familiarity.

Now Kendrick is the fourth starter and such a luxury does not exist. The Phillies will need a sixth, probably seventh, and maybe even eighth starter at some point during 2013. In the last 30 years, only the 2003 Seattle Mariners lasted an entire season using five starters.

The Phillies have averaged 9.6 starters per season over the last decade. They were blessed in 2008 and 2011 when only seven pitchers started games.

Spring training is the chance for pitching coach Rich Dubee to formulate a depth chart.

"One thing I tell our guys in our meeting early, 'If you do not make our team, leave a lasting impression. Leave a good lasting impression,' " Dubee said. "When we're thinking about calling guys up, what we have basically is what we've seen in spring training. If you leave a pretty good impression on us, odds are your name comes to our mouth pretty quickly."

There is no shortage of options. The Phillies signed veterans Rodrigo Lopez and Aaron Cook to minor-league deals. Both righties, while underwhelming, represent the sort of triple-A depth a team requires.

Cook is an Article XX-B free agent, which means he must be added to the Phillies roster by March 27 or receive a $100,000 retention bonus to go to triple A.

Tyler Cloyd destroyed the International League in 2012 and made six Phillies starts for a 4.91 ERA. Jonathan Pettibone is 22 and perhaps the most polished young arm in the minor-league system.

Beyond that, Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin offer promise, but probably need more seasoning.

"We're always open-minded," Dubee said. "We feel very good in this organization about Pettibone, Martin and Morgan. We've added some veterans like Cook and Lopez for starting depth. And that's something we need. Knock on wood, I'd love to go through the season with five starters, but that's awfully tough to do. All of these guys have a chance."

John Lannan, signed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, is the favorite for the fifth starter's spot. Dubee, in fact, talks as if Lannan already has it.

But if there is an injury or Lannan stumbles, a bunch of pitchers are jockeying this spring for the first call.

Extra bases

Hitters faced live pitching for the first time this spring, although there were not many swings. Most hitters chose to "track" the balls. No one wanted to step in against Phillippe Aumont, whose fastball drew rave reviews. "Too hard," said Steven Lerud, who caught Aumont. . . . Dubee spent some extra time watching Roy Halladay's session. "Doc was fine," Dubee said. . . . Delmon Young, recovering from ankle surgery, played long toss with head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan as the hitters took batting practice.

Contact Matt Gelb at Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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