As a new season, that Philadelphia players and executives alike feel is "World Series or Bust", approaches, all Phillies pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater, FL for their entry physical examinations on Sunday, prior to the start of workouts.
The biggest story in all of Major League Baseball this off-season, the Phillies' pitching rotation, will jointly be on the field and answer questions from the media for the very first time on Monday. The return of Cliff Lee to Philadelphia completed what many say could be the greatest pitching rotation in modern baseball history, adding him to last year's group of starters, Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton.
With the rotation filled to the brim, the Phillies' bullpen has some potential vacancies. Reports out of camp on Sunday had closer Brad Lidge actively campaigning for the return of his close friend, pitcher Chad Durbin, whose contract with the Phillies was through after the 2010 season. It's understandable that a player might wish for a friend to return to the club, however, the organization must come before friendship. Lidge should realize that what's best for the Phillies is to get a some of their up-and-coming pitchers a considerable amount of experience this year.
Pitchers like Dave Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Zagurski and possibly Justin De Fratus as well as Mike Stutes, plus others, will all be striving to make the big club this year. Experience for those hurlers will benefit the club more in the long run than giving innings, and millions of dollars, to Durbin.
Following the 2011 season, the only Phils reliever under contract is right-hander Jose Contreras. The Phillies have to provide big league innings to their deep collection of reserve arms in order to properly evaluate what they have for the future.
Allowing a guy like Mathieson, whom the Phillies have a lot invested in, after three elbow surgeries and years of recovery, to take on opponents at the highest level would enable the team to determine if Mathieson is still an asset that could be valuable in the future. Using any of the prospects listed would also allow the Phillies to save money on the team payroll, as the players without years of Major League service time would command much smaller salaries than a veteran like Durbin.
While the righty Durbin remains a free agent and Lidge feels Durbin's return is still a possibility, it's up to the Phillies' front office to realize the importance of not re-signing him and providing their young pitching depth a chance to develop further.
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