The Phillies had a nice win over the Marlins on Monday night. They knocked around Javier Vazquez and pieced together the 6-4 victory to start the road trip on a good note. Joe Blanton looked in need of a rehab start, but wiggled out of trouble with four double plays, and the Phils put a little bit more space between themselves and Florida. My only issue with the game was Michael Martinez’s at-bat. Not the actual at-bat, but the fact that Martinez is on the roster. It’s nothing personal, but the guy isn’t a major league player. Not right now. The Phillies plucked him in the Rule 5 draft, and now he must stay with major league team all year, or the Phillies have to offer him back to the Nationals.
The Rule 5 draft allows teams to select players from other minor league systems who have a certain amount of service time, but aren’t protected on the 40-man roster. The contingency is that you have to then keep that player on your own 25-man roster for the entire season. If not, the player must be offered back to the original club for 1/2 the price of the pick ($50,000). One of the most famous examples of a rule 5 player is Johan Santana. The Twins took him, hid him in the bullpen for a year, sent him down the next season and he eventually became their ace. That almost never happens. The example with the Phillies is Shane Victorino. They took him from the Dodgers, famously offered him back (the Dodgers chose not to pay the $25,000), and he eventually became an All-Star outfielder here in Philly.
Perhaps Shane whet the appetite of the front office when it came to the Rule 5 draft, or maybe they think they are smarter than the other teams, but for whatever reason the Phillies have wasted their time with the Rule 5 the last two years. David Herndon was the Rule 5 darling of 2010. The Phillies took Herndon, fell in love with him for whatever reason, and then had to live with him in the bullpen for the entire season. It was a year’s worth of mediocre performances in low pressure situations, the hope being that Herndon would develop into a reliable reliever. He had a 9+ ERA in 11 games this year before being sent down to Lehigh Valley. He could remain there for the rest of this season.
This year, the Phillies and Charlie Manuel in particular, fell in love with Michael Martinez in spring training. There are basic things about him that are enticing. He can play multiple positions. He’s a switch-hitter. Charlie seemed especially impressed with his versatility, which is interesting only because it takes an act of Congress for him to sit one of his regulars. The Phillies flooded their camp with utility guys this season in response to Chase Utley’s health and their lack of a back-up center fielder. It was a plan I had no problem with, but I do have a problem with the guys they ended up with.
There has to be a better back-up center field option somewhere than Michael Martinez. And, Shane Victorino is going to play, what, 155 games out there? If he gets hurt Martinez is not an everyday solution. So, for maybe 10 games this season we can’t live with Francisco or Mayberry in center? We’ve already got Wilson Valdez, and Martinez seems like a poor man’s version of that…if that’s even possible. I can’t think there is any way that Martinez is on the roster right now if he’s not rule 5. The guy is an out. He’s 3 for 16, he’s got no pop, and you can’t use him in an important situation (just like Herndon last year). The Phillies bench is already short right now, but with Martinez you are essentially playing with 24 1/2 guys. Maybe he can pinch run, or he’s a body in a blowout, but there isn’t room for guys like that. The Phillies aren’t the up and coming Twins, they can’t waste roster spots on developmental fliers. It’s time to ship Martinez back to the Nationals if they are interested, and if they aren’t, he can go to the Minors where he belongs.
On the field tonight you have what could be the premier pitching match-up in baseball to this point in the season. The Phillies send Roy Halladay out to face Josh Johnson. In 32 innings against each other last year the two pitchers combined to give up 1 earned run. Halladay threw a perfect game in one outing and lost his only career start against the NL East in another. Johnson has been masterful against the Phillies in his career, but he’s been masterful against everyone. He’s probably the NL Cy Young award winner through April, and could be Roy’s biggest obstacle for a potential repeat. If I’m picking between the two, I might make Johnson the slight favorite tonight, but Vegas has the Phillies as tiny favorites. They’ve yet to be an underdog this year in games that I’ve seen posted. The over/under fell short of my 5.5 dream and sits at an even six runs. Seems highly unlikely, but Johnson did show some vulnerability (finally) in his last start against St. Louis.
Everyone in their seats at 7:10, and they’ll probably have you ready for bed by 9:30.