1) Rodrigo Lopez was called up to take Antonio Bastardo’s spot in the rotation. Lopez hadn’t made a start since 2007 when he was with the Colorado Rockies and went down with arm trouble. The Phillies signed him to a minor league contract in the off-season, knowing that they might have rotation problems, and Lopez was doing extremely well in the minors. The Phillies chose to bring up Lopez over prospects Carlos Carrasco, Andrew Carpenter, and former rotation member Kyle Kendrick, among others. He looked good in his first start, pitching six shutout innings and then allowing two runs in the seventh inning before being removed with one out. With slim pickings for starting pitching on the trade market, Lopez would be a convenient answer to the hole in the rotation.
2) When Rodrigo Lopez was brought up, he took the roster spot of…none other than…Jack Taschner (admit it, you were expecting me to say "Sergio Escalona."). Taschner was acquired from the San Francisco Giants this past off-season for Ronny Paulino, in order to have another veteran lefty in the pen, knowing that J.C. Romero would be serving his suspension for 50 games. Not long after Romero returned, lefty Scott Eyre got injured. In 21 games, Taschner was 1-1 with a 5.20 ERA. He started off being fairly effective, having a 3.92 ERA in April and May. But with Escalona having been more effective recently, and Romero back, the Phillies decided to get rid of Taschner, giving him the opportunity to find a chance on another major league roster.
3) However, Escalona didn’t get to stay too much longer. Scott Eyre was activated from the DL and Escalona in turn was sent down. Now, the only bullpen pitcher left on the DL is Clay Condrey; besides him, the core of our bullpen is back. However, this will surely not be the last we see of Escalona. Eyre has said that this is going to be his last year, so come next year, the Phillies may be perfectly happy to have Escalona in the bullpen.
4) The Phillies are scouting Pedro Martinez as a possibility for the rotation. Before, the team had said that it wasn’t interested in Pedro, but with so few available options for pitching, they’ve decided to at least look into the possibility. Scouts didn’t seem too impressed the last time they watched Pedro worked out, the main diagnosis being that he had lost his speed. Pedro was most effective as a power pitcher, and now that he’s older, it’s not surprising that he’s lost velocity and is less effective. I would like to see how Rodrigo Lopez does for a few starts before the Phillies panic and seriously consider signing Pedro. Frankly, if Pedro were worth signing, he would have been signed already. Freddy Garcia was signed this off-season and Pedro remained on the open market. What does that say?
5) The Phillies are sending three players to St. Louis for the All-Star game. Chase Utley will be starting at second base (surprise, surprise), Raul Ibanez will start in the outfield (it is indeed a country for old men – Ibanez got the most votes for the NL outfield), and Ryan Howard will be a backup. Utley was expected, Ibanez deserves it, but sending Howard is kind of curious. He’s batting .252 and has 20 HR, which is obviously very good, but there are other first basemen with better numbers. My first reaction, not having seen the entire All-Star roster was, ‘Seriously? Howard over Adrian Gonzalez?’ Well, it wasn’t Howard over Gonzalez. In fact, the NL roster has four first basemen: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Gonzalez, and Howard. This would make a lot of sense if the game was in an American League park and the DH rule was in effect. But, it’s not. Not really sure what Charlie, Joe, and Tony were thinking. It’s probably Charlie’s way of thanking Howard for last year. Shane Victorino is an option for the final roster spot, and a worthy candidate, though Mark Reynolds has been fantastic for Arizona.
6) The biggest news of the weekend, however, was the Phillies sweep of the rival Mets in Philadelphia. After being swept by the Braves on the road, the Phillies came home tied for first place in the division with Florida, with Atlanta and New York breathing down their necks. Friday featured the promising Phillies debut of Rodrigo Lopez, in which the Phillies pounced on Livan Hernandez for seven runs and the Mets could only get three innings out of him. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley all had multiple hits and Jayson Werth hit a home run as the Phillies went on to win 7-2. The second game, Jamie Moyer pitched into the seventh inning and only allowed one run, Victorino and Pedro Feliz each had three hits and Brad Lidge got his 15th save of the year as the Phillies won 4-1. Lidge looked like the Lidge that was so successful last year for the Phillies. Apparently, sending him on a trip to the DL did him some good. If Lidge is able to hold down the bullpen, the Phillies will have one less inning of a game to worry about. On Sunday, Joe Blanton outdueled Johan Santana as the Phillies swept the Mets in a 2-0 game. The only two runs in the game came from solo home runs by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Blanton pitched into the eighth inning and Lidge came in to strike out the side in the ninth. It was an extremely important and extremely promising looking series for the Phillies. All three starting pitchers looked great; Lopez’ debut looked good, Moyer was effective, and Blanton has continued his recent success. If Blanton can be a more productive member of the rotation, he is as good a candidate as any to assume the vacancy atop the rotation left by Brett Myers. It would take a huge deal of pressure off the Phillies and they could look into getting a bottom of the rotation type starter – a Jarrod Washburn or Bronson Arroyo. Also, it looks like Brad Lidge is back. Lidge looked dominant in the second two games of the weekend, and he was a huge part of the team’s success last year. To have a healthy Lidge for the second half of the year will make a huge difference and they’ll have a much easier time staying on top of the division. Also, Jimmy Rollins is warming up. He had hits and RBIs in all three games. Hopefully the team’s performance this weekend is a sign of good things to come.