No easy answers for starters' woes

No easy answers for starters' woes

PHILADELPHIA -- There are problems in the Phillies' rotation, and there are no easy answers at the moment.

The Phils enter Tuesday's series opener against the Reds at Great American Ball Park with a 6.35 starter's ERA, which is the highest in baseball.

Right-hander Joe Blanton has a 6.86 ERA, which is the sixth-highest ERA in the Majors. Entering Monday, only the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco (7.78 ERA), the White Sox's Gavin Floyd (7.71 ERA), the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine (7.36 ERA), the Nationals' Scott Olsen (7.24 ERA) and the Rays' Scott Kazmir (6.97 ERA) are higher.

If left-hander Jamie Moyer had enough innings to qualify for the ERA rankings, he would have the highest ERA in the game at 8.15.

If right-hander Chan Ho Park had enough innings to qualify with Moyer, he would have the sixth highest ERA at 7.08.

"We're not going to get very far unless they all step up and pitch the way we think they can pitch," Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday. "It's something we monitor every day. We haven't made any decisions as far as changes are concerned. But, of course, when they're not performing at their normal levels, it is cause for some concern."

Manager Charlie Manuel said Sunday the Phillies would discuss their pitching problems, but options are limited.

"We have to keep our minds open with what ways we can improve our club," Amaro said. "But at this time, the options that we have internally are not necessarily better options than what we have going right now. If we feel differently, then we'll make changes, but right now that's not the case."

Replacing Park with left-hander J.A. Happ is the most likely solution, and it could happen in the next couple of days. Park lasted just 1 1/3 innings Sunday in Washington, which might have erased any of his recent progress.

"We need more consistency out of him, and out of all of our pitchers," Amaro said. "If they're not going to be consistent, then we at least have to consider what we might be able to do to make our club better. It's a matter of what the alternative is. It's a matter of if we're going to put somebody in there who's going to be more consistent. We haven't come to that conclusion yet."

Happ is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 12 relief appearances.

"He's pitched very well out of the bullpen, and we've needed him," Amaro said. "He's been effective back there. He's helped us there. He's been helping us win games there. The question is whether or not we're better off having him do his job as well as he has done in the bullpen, or whether we end up weakening our bullpen and adding what may be a question mark in our rotation. Do you weaken two areas just to see? Those are the things you have to factor in."

But after Happ for Park, there are no fixes in the foreseeable future.

Cole Hamels (1-2, 5.04 ERA) and Brett Myers (3-2, 4.50 ERA) certainly aren't going anywhere. Moyer is 0-2 with a 13.86 ERA (19 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings) in his past three starts, which is his worst three-start stretch since he went 0-1 with a 15.30 ERA (17 earned runs in 10 innings) May 6-18, 2005, with the Mariners. But Moyer isn't going anywhere, either. First, he has made just seven starts and the Phillies believe he will straighten up. Second, the club just signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract. That commitment has earned him time.

Third, Moyer is not suited for the bullpen.

"His stuff is the same," Amaro said. "He's just not putting the ball where he wants to put it. He has less margin for error than others."

Moyer went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA last season to become the second-oldest pitcher in baseball history to win 16 games. He was 45. But these recent struggles have some wondering if age is catching up to the ageless wonder.

"It's possible, but I don't think that's the case right now," Amaro said. "His stuff has not gone backwards. It's his location."

Philadelphia also believes Blanton will turn around. He went 2-6 with a 6.75 ERA in eight starts before the A's traded him to the Phillies in July, so he has had rough stretches like this before.

"He's run into some spots over the course of the game where he's just not commanding his fastball," Amaro said. "It's causing him some problems. His command starts running away from him, and it makes things difficult for him."

Amaro said right-handers Kyle Kendrick and Carlos Carrasco have been inconsistent for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, so they don't appear to be immediate solutions. But even if they were pitching better, it is nearly impossible to imagine either of them taking a spot other than Park's.

And even then, Park would have to go to the bullpen, which means somebody from the 'pen would have to go elsewhere.

And that decision wouldn't be easy, either.

"If we felt there were better alternatives for us, we'd be making changes," Amaro said.

Right now the only change could be Happ for Park. Other than that, the club has to hope Moyer and Blanton straighten out quickly, because if they don't, it is hard to imagine the Phillies playing baseball deep into October.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.