NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A year ago at this time, the Phillies had one more starting pitcher than openings in their rotation and thought that was too many.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . .
With that in mind, they selected a pair of pitchers in the Rule 5 draft yesterday as the annual winter meetings at the sprawling Opryland resort broke up. One of them, lefthander Travis Blackley, will be given a chance to compete for a spot in a rotation that presently features Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton.
"If we can't get a proven guy, we want to create as many options as possible," assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. "Right now, we've got five starters, but Moyer will pitch at 45 next year and Eaton has had some [shoulder] issues. We learned last year that six is not enough."
The Phillies will also continue to monitor Glendon Rusch and Kris Benson, a pair of free agents who missed all last season.
Blackley, 25, was 10-8 with a 4.66 earned run average for the Triple A Fresno Grizzlies last season. The Phillies had been trying to move up in the draft to take him. They couldn't find a team willing to deal, so were pleasantly surprised when the native Australian was still available.
"He had [shoulder] surgery a couple years ago and we think he's still on the upswing," Arbuckle said. "It took a while for his velocity to come back, but he's at about 88 and touches 90-91. He has a pretty good changeup and a feel for pitching. He definitely has a chance to compete for the fifth spot."
In the second round, the Phillies took righthander Lincoln Holdzkom from the Red Sox organization. The 25-year-old reliever was a combined 5-1 with a 2.97 ERA between Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket last season.
"He's got a good arm. He hasn't shown the command [44 walks in 63 2/3 innings] but he has a plus fastball and was worth a roll of the dice," Arbuckle said.
The Phillies paid $50,000 for the right to select each pitcher from a pool of players who are left off 40-man rosters. They must be kept on the active 25-man roster all season or be offered back to their original team for half that.
In all, 18 players were taken and 14 were pitchers, which is a pretty good indication of the state of baseball today.
In the Triple A portion of the draft, where the price to take a look at a player is $12,000, the Phillies took third baseman Patrick Sellers from the Astros organization and second baseman Luke Appert from Oakland while losing righthander Scott Mitchinson. He was taken by the Athletics.
In the Double A phase ($6,000 buy-in), the Phillies lost righthander Kenny Fernandez to Florida. He pitched last season in the Dominican Summer League.
As it turned out, both Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber opened the 2007 season on the disabled list. So the Phillies are going to try to give themselves as many fallback positions as possible.
"We may be a little gunshy based on what happened last year," Arbuckle said.
The Dodgers signed free-agent centerfielder
early yesterday morning, but it's difficult to tell how that will impact the Phillies' chances of retaining
. The good news is that the deal is short, for only 2 years. The bad news is that Jones will make $18 million in each of those seasons . . . The deadline to accept salary arbitration is tonight. The Phillies would be stunned, but delighted, if Rowand accepted because that would mean he is signed for 1 year at a price to be determined . . .
There seems to be increasing optimism that the Phillies will work out an agreement that would have second baseman Tadahito Iguchi return to play third base, but more pessimism that agent Rocky Hall will be able to get a waiver of the rule that prohibits Iguchi from playing in the majors for the Phillies before May 15 since they released him, as called for by his contract, after the season . . . Mets officials denied a hot rumor that they were close to acquiring Johan Santana from the Twins for a package including outfielders Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez and pitchers Mike Pelfrey and Phillip Humber . . .
Another buzz around the lobby: That the Tigers, who made the biggest deal of the winter meetings when they got third baseman Miguel Cabrera and lefthander Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins for six prospects, are now trying to turn around and flip Willis in an effort to restock their farm system . . . The Yankees are looking to cut some payroll, and would probably be willing to deal righthander Mike Mussina, who has 1 year for $12 million remaining on his contract. There is some speculation that the Montoursville, Pa., native would only be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to the Phillies, but many scouts don't think he has much left. *