After playing three extra-innings games last week and enduring a 95-minute rain delay on Saturday night, the Phillies got a much-needed day away from the ballpark yesterday.
Ruben Amaro Jr. did not.
The Phillies' general manager is happy with his team's place in the standings - four games up on the New York Mets in the National League East - but he knows there's work to be done.
A look at the stat sheet confirms that.
The Phils lead the NL in runs (337), homers (90), and combined on-base and slugging percentage (.804). They have the best fielding percentage in the league (.990) and highest average home attendance (43,658).
The pitching picture is not as pretty.
The Phils rank 15th out of 16 NL teams with a 4.66 ERA. The bullpen has been more than respectable, ranking fifth with a 3.55 ERA. The starting rotation, however, has the worst ERA in the league at 5.36, and it has given up the second most hits (388).
A closer look shows Phils starters have pitched 342 2/3 innings. Only Houston's starters (342) have fewer. Last year, the Phillies' 3.23 bullpen ERA was best in the NL. The starting rotation was an important part of that success. Phils starters pitched 966 innings, third most in the league. Teams that get innings from their starters don't overwork their bullpens. Heading into tonight's game against Toronto, Phillies relievers have logged 213 innings, fourth-most in the league.
So it was no surprise that Amaro couldn't afford to take a day off yesterday.
He knows championship teams are built on pitching. He knows he has work to do.
"We'd like to improve both areas," he said, referring to the rotation and bullpen. "We need all of the above. We're pursuing both. That doesn't mean we're going to get any, but you're always trying to improve."
The Phils had been looking for a starter even before Brett Myers went down with what may be a season-ending hip injury. (Myers clings to hope that he'll be back, maybe in the bullpen, in September.)
Myers' injury makes the need for a starter more pressing.
"It's pretty clear when you lose your No. 2 starter you'd like to replace him with someone who can give you a similar performance," Amaro said.
The desire to add a reliever grew out of Brad Lidge's knee injury. The all-star closer went on the disabled list last week. Team doctors have tried to cool down the inflammation in Lidge's right knee, and Amaro said the pitcher could be back by the end of the month. But the team has to brace for at least the possibility that this problem could crop up again.
Ryan Madson is well-prepared to handle closer duties, but the Phils may need depth in middle relief and setup roles. The team was reminded of that potential need over the weekend. Chan Ho Park was unavailable to pitch Saturday night because of a sore elbow, and Clay Condrey has been nursing a sore back.
In recent seasons, the Phils have dealt for pitchers Cory Lidle, Kyle Lohse, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton, and it seems likely that they will add an arm or two this summer. Amaro, however, warned that it won't be easy.
"So many teams are in it, and so many are looking for pitching,'' he said. "Wanting to do something and actually doing something are often totally different things.
"Right now, we're throwing the ball well enough to keep our heads above water."
Amaro was asked if he believed the Phils could make the postseason with the current makeup of the pitching staff.
"I'm not sure I can answer that right now," he said. "A lot depends on the how [J.A.] Happ and [Antonio] Bastardo pitch."
Happ has shown himself to be a worthy member of the rotation, but the jury is still out on Bastardo, who picked up two wins before being shellacked by Boston on Saturday. Bastardo, whose best pitches are his fastball and change-up, might be best suited for the bullpen. He stepped into the rotation when Myers went down.
Despite a payroll that has topped $133 million, Amaro said the team has room to take on money.
"We don't have unlimited flexibility, but we do have flexibility," he said.
The Phils have been tied to some big names, such as San Diego's Jake Peavy. That appears to be an unrealistic target because Peavy has a no-trade clause, wants to stay in San Diego, and is now on the disabled list with an ankle injury.
Someone such as Seattle lefty Erik Bedard might be more realistic for the Phillies, though there would be hurdles there. For one, Bedard skipped his last start with inflammation in his shoulder. He also has a reputation as not being the best fit in a clubhouse. On top of all that, Seattle is looking for a slew of top prospects for Bedard, who can be a free agent at season's end.
Amaro said he would have no problem adding another lefty to his lefty-deep staff.
"You like balance, but the key is getting someone that will pitch effectively," he said. "If they're effective, it doesn't matter."
The Phils put much stock in a player's character. Though he would not comment specifically on Bedard, Amaro was asked how he weighed character vs. talent.
"That's a great question and one that's difficult to answer," Amaro said. "You don't know how a player is going to react when he gets in a new situation. It could be a case where he feels like he had a new lease on life. There are two schools of thought: Coming to a great club could make the guy's makeup better. On the other hand, he could upset the apple cart. It presents a difficult decision."
And decisions like that are why Amaro was hunkered down in his office yesterday.
There are no off days for the pitching-needy.