WASHINGTON - The first big decision the Phillies needed to make this week required a lot less contemplation than the second move.
Although their decision to option 23-year-old righthander Vance Worley back to Triple A Lehigh Valley after a couple of less-than-stellar starts caught most people by surprise, pitching coach Rich Dubee's rationale makes perfect sense. Worley clearly lost his rhythm after a bullpen stint that followed a couple of solid starts against the Nationals and Mets. In fact, he acknowledged as much to reporters.
"The advantage is we need to get Vance Worley going right again," Dubee said. "This is probably more for Vance than anything. Personally, I think he kind of got messed up when we put him in the bullpen for that little period there. He was throwing pretty good, then he went to the bullpen, lost his edge, his stamina, his endurance. We just need to get him back pitching every 5 days and getting back up to 100, 110 pitches."
Kyle Kendrick, who will start on Saturday in Pittsburgh, isn't stretched out, either. He threw 73 pitches in an emergency start against the Rockies on May 19, but has thrown only 50 pitches in two relief outings since then.
Manager Charlie Manuel estimated yesterday that Kendrick is capable of throwing about 65 pitches.
Kendrick had been a starter his entire career, including most of the 2007, 2008 and 2010 seasons for the Phillies. This year, he has served as a long man in the bullpen, making two spot starts in the process: that game against the Rockies in which he replaced the injured Joe Blanton at the last minute and allowed five runs in three innings, and against the Braves on May 7, when he allowed two hits with three strikeouts and one walk in five scoreless innings.
The fact that Kendrick will have a limited pitch count Saturday leads into the decision the Phillies must make before the week ends. Assuming Shane Victorino does not suffer a setback in his final couple of rehab starts, the centerfielder is expected to rejoin the active roster Friday. That means somebody must go. The Phillies theoretically could part with lefty Mike Zagurski, whom they called up yesterday to replace Worley, and go with 11 pitchers. But that would put even more strain on a bullpen whose key performers have logged plenty of action in recent weeks. Plus, it would force Danys Baez to replace Kendrick as a long man.
Dubee said yesterday he would not favor such a move. Earlier in the week, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock also expressed skepticism.
Assuming the Phillies keep their usual seven relievers, they will have to part with one of their bench players: outfielder John Mayberry Jr., outfielder Ben Francisco or utility man Michael Martinez (assuming, as it appears, that Domonic Brown has earned a spot on the team). Mayberry and Francisco both have options, while Martinez would have to be offered back to the Nationals, per Rule 5 conditions. Francisco is earning about three times as much money as Mayberry's $414,000 salary this season and would continue to earn that money in the minor leagues. He also offers a more polished bat with a longer track record, plus he has hit the ball well over the last week. Mayberry provides more power and is regarded as a far better and more versatile defender. He also can back up Ryan Howard at first base, where usual reserve Ross Gload is limited with a hip injury.
The decision won't be easy, and Manuel acknowledged as much yesterday. Putting Gload on the DL would give them another option, but it would also eliminate their only true lefthanded pinch-hitter.
Closer Brad Lidge pitched an inning of an extended spring training game, his second outing since relocating to Florida. The veteran righthander hopes to return in late June, though Dubee said it is still too early to provide a timetable. Lidge has been on the disabled list with a rotator-cuff strain since late March.
Shane Victorino made his third rehab appearance since landing on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, starting and playing centerfield for Double A Reading. He is expected to play again today and perhaps tomorrow before joining the Phillies in Pittsburgh for their three-game series against the Pirates. Victorino played games at Class A Lakewood on Saturday and Sunday, going 1-for-6 with two RBI, a walk and two strikeouts.
Besides Joe Blanton, who is sidelined with an elbow injury, the only other player on the disabled list is backup catcher Brian Schneider, who is not yet close to returning from a strained hamstring. *
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