LOS ANGELES - Pedro Martinez' first postseason start in 5 years could very well come on the mound where his illustrious career began. With righthander Joe Blanton and lefthander J.A. Happ available to pitch out of the bullpen "for the first few games," according to manager Charlie Manuel, Martinez emerged yesterday as the likely candidate to start Game 2 tomorrow at Dodger Stadium.
The 37-year-old righthander, who broke into the big leagues as a 20-year-old reliever with the Dodgers in 1992, has not appeared in a game since Sept. 30, when he threw 84 pitches and allowed three runs in four innings of a 10-3 win over the Astros.
Despite the layoff, now at 15 days - Martinez was scheduled to start Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Saturday at Colorado before it was postponed because of weather - Manuel said he is confident sending the veteran to the mound for a start in the NL Championship Series. Martinez threw a simulated game at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday before the team departed for LA, his first action against hitters since his regular-season finale.
"I think he's capable of throwing anywhere from 75 to 90 pitches, maybe even 100," Manuel said yesterday. "I think that gets you into the sixth inning or the seventh, and I think where we're at with our pitching and everything, I think that would work."
With Chan Ho Park (hamstring) back on the roster and Blanton available out of the bullpen, the Phillies would have two righthanders capable of pitching multiple innings in relief of Martinez.
Even if Blanton does pitch in relief tomorrow, he would have 2 days of rest before Game 4 on Monday, which the Phillies could ask him to start.
Blanton is 1-0 with a 2.88 ERA in four career regular-season starts against the Dodgers. In Game 4 of the NLCS last season, he allowed three runs in five innings in the Phillies' Matt Stairs-aided 7-5 win at Dodger Stadium.
In his most recent start against the Dodgers, on June 6, he allowed one run on five hits in six innings.
"I'll say this about Blanton: I definitely look at Joe Blanton as a starter," Manuel said.
Happ, who went 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 23 starts during the regular season and started Game 3 of the NLDS, is another option to start Game 4. But the Dodgers' lineup is packed with hitters who are more productive against lefties than righties - among them, Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp and Casey Blake - and the Phillies are in need of another lefthanded reliever to complement rookie Antonio Bastardo and veteran Scott Eyre, the latter of whom already was pitching with a loose body in his elbow when he sprained his ankle in Game 3 of the NLDS.
Happ has never started against the Dodgers, although he pitched three innings of relief at Dodgers Stadium during the NLCS last October, allowing one run.
Sherrill's 0.65 ERA in 30 appearances with the Dodgers after a July trade from Baltimore ranks him first among NL lefty relievers (minimum 20 innings). Lefties have hit only .163 against Sherrill in his career. In the past, Manuel has occasionally hit Utley second in the batting order while hitting the righthanded Jayson Werth third to separate Utley and Ryan Howard.
Given Jimmy Rollins' recent resurgence, Manuel is unlikely to move his leadoff man out of the top spot. But he could hit Shane Victorino, who is hitting .314 against lefties, fifth and provide a similar look.
"I can maneuver the lineup if it's necessary," Manuel said, "but right now I'll wait and see how we play for the next couple of days." *
Charlie Manuel is well aware of the challenges his lineup will face against the Dodgers, but he doesn't sound quite ready to alter the batting order that thrived against the Rockies in the NLDS. In addition to facing two lefthanded starters in Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf, the Phillies will have to contend with two of the top lefty specialists in the National League, in George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo.