BRADENTON, Fla. - Ruben Amaro Jr. did not mince words when asked about the decision to send righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to Triple A, where he will start the second year of a 3-year, $12 million contract in the IronPigs' rotation.
"He hasn't pitched well enough to be a major league starter for us," Amaro said. "His stuff and his command just wasn't good enough. It's kind of simple. He needs to be better for us to utilize him in our rotation. He'll go down and pitch and hopefully he improves. If he doesn't, then he doesn't. He's got to pitch better than that to be a major league pitcher."
Gonzalez appeared in six games at the end of last season, allowing four runs with three walks and five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of relief.
In 12 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley, he posted a 1.65 ERA and good strikeout numbers (19 in 16 1/3 innings) but walked 10 batters. This spring, Gonzalez had a 7.53 ERA and allowed five home runs while striking out just seven batters in 14 1/3 innings.
Veteran Grady Sizemore entered yesterday with just six hits, none of them for extra bases, in 38 at-bats (.158), but Amaro did not give any indication that he is in danger of losing a roster spot. The Phillies gave Sizemore a guaranteed contract worth $2 million early in the offseason after they were impressed with what they saw out of him over the last few months of the 2014 season. Asked if Sizemore is on the team, Amaro responded, "For me, he is. But again, we're still looking through a lot of different things, a lot of scenarios."
Those scenarios are a result of an Achilles' injury suffered by Domonic Brown, which could result in the projected starting rightfielder opening the season on the disabled list. Amaro has yet to rule out Brown for Opening Day, but it is looking increasingly likely that the position will initially be manned by a rotation that includes one of the nonroster free agents in camp.
Among the options is Jordan Danks, 28, who is 9-for-36 with a pair of doubles and a home run this spring. In 386 career plate appearances in the majors, he has a batting line of .227/.303/.326 with eight home runs and 119 strikeouts. Brian Bogusevic is 11-for-36 with three home runs, two doubles and 10 strikeouts. He has 773 big-league plate appearances and a .236/.313/.370 line. Bogusevic, 31, spent last season with the Cubs, posting a .784 OPS and six home runs in 155 plate appearances. Bogusevic and Danks are both lefthanded hitters, and the Phillies are already heavy on that side of the plate. Herrera, Ben Revere and Sizemore are all lefties. The righthanded options include Russ Canzler and Jeff Francoeur.
The Phillies' decision to enter the season with Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera as their centerfielder and Ben Revere in left raises some questions about Darin Ruf, who has played rightfield but has been used primarily in left.
"Ruf can break in and get as many at-bats as he wants if he produces," Amaro said. "He'll get some chances to play, I think. But again, we're still in flux as to who's going to make our club. Guys are still battling for jobs. Ruf's not a lock right now for our club. There's still four or five decisions we have to make."
Tempers flared at the start of the fifth inning after Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez jawed at pitcher Kevin Slowey for what he felt was a quick pitch in an earlier at-bat. First-base coach Juan Samuel got into it with Pirates third-base coach Rick Sofield, the benches cleared, the bullpens emptied, and order was eventually restored. Sofield and Samuel were ejected.
"He told me to get in my dugout; I told him to come help me," Samuel said.
The Phillies do not need to use a fifth starter during their first trip through the rotation, raising the possibility that the club keeps an extra reliever or bench player. Locks for the bullpen are Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman and Justin De Fratus. Jeanmar Gomez seems a good bet to fill the long-relief role. You can probably pencil in Rule 5 lefty Andy Oliver for a spot. That leaves at least one and potentially two slots left for an uninspiring cast of characters that includes Luis Garcia and Phillippe Aumont, the latter of whom is out of options and thus could get the benefit of the doubt. Garcia has thrown nine scoreless innings this spring.
The Phillies will need to add a fifth starter at some point - Kevin Slowey and Sean O'Sullivan are the two leading options - so keeping an extra reliever to start the season would only delay any decision. Amaro said that veteran righthander Chad Billingsley, whom the Phillies hope will ultimately take the final spot in the rotation, won't be ready to return from the disabled list until late April or early May.