Once John Lannan returns in the next few weeks, the rotation will be Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Pettibone and Lannan. If the Phillies need somebody else while Halladay recovers, it likely will be Tyler Cloyd or Adam Morgan from Triple-A or somebody in the Minor Leagues from another organization. There are a host of pitchers with opt-out clauses in the Minors, including Chien-Ming Wang (May 31), Jeremy Bonderman (June 1) and Jair Jurrjens (June 15).
I also imagine they will cover their bases and watch Carlos Zambrano (Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League) pitch. But it would be a mistake to trade for a starting pitcher right now, only to watch the offense continue to sputter the next couple months and the Phils fall from contention.
Do you think the lack of run support is driving the pitchers crazy?
-- Matt M., Princeton, N.J.
I absolutely think it bothers them, although it doesn't make much sense to admit it publicly. But I recall Roy Oswalt talking about the offense's struggles in 2011, saying it's like trying to dance between rain drops. In other words, they feel they need to be absolutely perfect to have a chance to win.
Hamels has a 2.79 run support average, which ranks 104th out of 111 qualifying pitchers in baseball. Lee is averaging 3.81, which is 80th. Kendrick is averaging 4.28, which is 66th. It wears on them, but over the years, they have done a good job of not letting it consume them. They only can hope that one of these days they'll get the consistent run support they need so they don't feel they need to dodge the rain drops to be successful.
Who do you think will make the All-Star team for the Phillies?
-- Dana D., Minneapolis
Chase Utley leads qualifying National League second basemen with an .858 OPS. The only other NL second baseman with an OPS better than .800 is St. Louis' Matt Carpenter (.812). Utley has been this team's bright spot offensively. It'll be interesting to see where he ranks in fan voting when it comes out. I suspect he won't be in the lead, although based on the numbers, he should be near the top. Michael Young has been consistent, but he doesn't have the power numbers to get a spot. He falls behind third basemen David Wright and Pablo Sandoval at this point.
Offensively, those are the Phillies' only viable candidates. Jonathan Papelbon might have a shot, but he's tied for 10th in saves, and saves are big when it comes to selecting All-Star closers. How about Kendrick? He is 10th in the league in ERA (2.47). He also has four wins, which is tied for sixth. Lee is 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA. He also could be in the running.
I read last week that Papelbon's fastball velocity is down. Is that anything to be concerned about?
-- Jeff D., Media, Pa.
I asked Papelbon about it because I was curious if he had any thoughts on it, and because he has $26 million remaining on his contract following this season. He had none, other than it takes him a while to get going during the season. His fastball is averaging 93.01 mph, according to pitch f/x data, compared to 94.56 last season, 95.76 in 2012 and 95.66 in '11. But Papelbon is pitching with success, so you can't argue with the results. He has a 1.15 ERA and seven saves in 15 appearances, although perhaps because of the drop in velocity, he is averaging only 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings, compared to 11.8 last season and 12.2 in '11.
Considering the Phillies have a bunch of multiyear deals on the books and some of those players have underperformed or been injured, I thought it was worth asking if Papelbon feels healthy or not. He said he is healthy.