Remove Roy Halladay's seven starts while pitching injured, and the rotation had posted a 3.50 ERA before Cliff Lee took the mound Friday. That would rank fifth in baseball. The rotation's ERA is 3.36 since May 6, when the Phillies disabled Halladay. That, too, is fifth in baseball.
The Phillies' 42 quality starts in 61 games were three more than the next-closest team.
It is remarkable, considering the staff suffered the loss of their $20 million ace, Halladay, and the presumptive fifth starter, John Lannan. Cole Hamels lost nine games before May ended. But Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone, and Cloyd have stabilized what could have been a glaring weakness.
"They're doing well," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "We've been fine. They've done a good job."
There will be decisions to make. Carlos Zambrano was scheduled to make his third minor-league start Friday at double-A Reading until the game was postponed by rain. He will pitch the second game of a doubleheader Saturday. The Phillies must promote Zambrano by July 1, or he can ask for his release.
Lannan (left knee strain) started his official rehab assignment at single-A Clearwater on Friday by allowing two runs (one earned) in four innings. He struck out five and walked one. Lannan must be activated no later than July 7.
Cloyd was officially listed as Wednesday's starter in Minnesota. He walked five and danced around trouble vs. Milwaukee. The 26-year-old righty has survived on a high-80s fastball; six of his 11 career starts have lasted at least six innings with two or fewer runs.
"I don't think you can fill in for Roy, a pitcher of that status and how great he is," Cloyd said. "For me it's just going out there and competing and giving the team a chance to win every time. And that's been my main goal ever since I got up here. That's all I concentrate on."
The Phillies' starting pitchers had a 3.82 ERA in 2012. A different - and makeshift - cast has performed better through more than a third of 2013.
"They've been good," Manuel said. "Tyler and Jonathan, they get tested about every time they go out there right now because of their experience, and they are kind of new at the major-league level."
Manuel said he used Mike Adams in a five-run game because the setup man is still tinkering with his mechanics following a back injury. "He's not quite right," Manuel said. "I think we still have to get him work." . . . Catching prospect Tommy Joseph, who had not played since May 4 because of a concussion, was activated from the disabled list and reported to single-A Clearwater. He will eventually return to triple-A Lehigh Valley.