Lakewood goes to six-man rotation to give starters some rest

Lakewood's Matt Imhof, drafted in the second round this year, had a heavy college workload.
Lakewood's Matt Imhof, drafted in the second round this year, had a heavy college workload. (DAVE SCHOFIELD)
Posted: August 04, 2014

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - It wasn't the plan going into the season, but Lakewood, the Phillies' low-A affiliate, is employing a six-man rotation.

Lefthanders Matt Imhof, who had a heavy college load, and Yoel Mecias, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, were recently promoted, and the Phillies want both 20-year-olds to have extra rest between starts. Plus, 19-year-old righthander Tyler Viza is in his first full professional season. Righthander Ranfi Casimiro, 22, like Viza, hasn't missed a start, so the Phillies organization thought the two could also benefit from extra rest. The other two rotation members are 23-year-old righthander Jon Prosinski (4-4 4.46 ERA) and 21-year-old righthander Yacksel Rios (5-0, 3.33).

"Imhof threw a lot of innings in college, Mecias is coming back from Tommy John surgery, Viza is a high school kid from last year, and Casimiro and the other guys could use an extra day's rest," said Lakewood pitching coach Les Lancaster. "It was a little hard for them to get used to it at first, but the second time around they adjusted a lot better."

The six-man rotation began July 15, when Mecias made his first start with the BlueClaws after four starts with the Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Imhof, the Phillies' second-round draft choice from Cal Poly, made his first start for Lakewood after being promoted from short-season Williamsport on July 19. He had made three starts for Williamsport.

At Cal Poly, Imhof went 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA while pitching 991/3 innings.

Counting a three-inning stint with the Gulf Coast Phillies, Imhof had pitched 23 professional innings entering the weekend.

Imhof is being limited to five innings per start. Even in his second start, when he threw just 46 pitches while going five innings and allowing just one run against Kannapolis, Imhof wasn't going to pitch another inning.

Lakewood manager Greg Legg said it's possible that Imhof could throw more than five innings at the end of the year. The organization believes it's important the pitchers experience an entire season.

"You are preparing them for the big leagues," Legg said. "So you want them experiencing what it's like to go through an entire season."

For Imhof, the six-man rotation hasn't been a big adjustment. In college he pitched once a week, but at Williamsport he was in a five-man rotation.

"Even when I was on a five-man rotation I felt fine," Imhof said. "Right now my arm feels pretty fresh, so it's a good thing."

Imhof has been impressive since signing, but Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, doesn't think he will be moved up to Clearwater by the end of the season.

Mecias, who had Tommy John surgery June 22 of last year, is 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in three starts for Lakewood.

"He has done very well, but we probably won't have him throw more than 85 pitches," Legg said.

Legg cited a positive development for Viza and Casimiro, who have a combined 5-23 record: They haven't missed a start.

"They have both made all 20 starts, so you want to see how they endure their next five or six," said Lancaster, who pitched seven years in the majors. "It's tough on them, the heat soaks in, but they are learning how to pitch and what this is all about."


Hard-throwing righthander Nefi Ogando was 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 10 July relief appearances for Reading. In 112/3 innings he had 14 strikeouts and four walks.


In his first four games after returning from the Phillies, Lehigh Valley catcher Cameron Rupp was 0 for 14 with six strikeouts.


Phillies first-round pick Aaron Nola, the righthander from Louisiana State, will make his debut for double-A Reading at 7:05 p.m Wednesday in a home game against Harrisburg.


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