The battle for the five spots in the Lehigh Valley rotation will prove to be interesting once SPring Training gets under way in less than two weeks. With the addition of several veterans with major league experience, what first looked like a youthful rotation of up and coming prospects now looks like a mixed bag of the up and comers combined with those with major league experience that could provide several spot starts for the Phils without total implosion and ruining confidence.
First the givens. It is extremely likely that Jon Pettibone will be the #1 starter for Lehigh Valley absent a very unlikely chance that the Phils take a shot on him right out of the gate with the big club. Pettibone was extremely impressive on each occasion I saw him throw, and it would surprise me if he didnt spend big league time this year. The #2 starter should be Ethan Martin, who was an impressive 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA in his 7 starts with Reading after being acquired from the Dodgers. Just 23, Martin has good upside so long as he can maintain his command which he has struggled with in the past. Tyler CLoyd should be penciled in as the #3 starter. Coming off an incredible year in which he went a combined 15-1 between Reading and Lehigh Valley, it would be a struggle for anyone to replicate the success of CLoyd’s outstanding 2012. Ultimately, I see CLoyd as a guy who will give you a quality start almost every time out that could fit in a middle relief, innings eating role for the Phils just fine if needed.
The battle for the #4 and #5 spots is where things will get interesting in the Spring. As of now, I am unsure of the Phils plans with BJ Rosenberg. I like the way Rosenberg throws, but he has bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen which has not helped him. He was never adequately stretched out to see what he could really do and his short time with the Phils was very rough at the outset, before he settled down. Several minor league veterans are in the mix for the #4 and 5 positions as the Phils have re-acquired both Rodrigo Lopez and Brian Bass as well as Aaron Cook who who has over 200 major league starts under his belt. Cook floundered with the Red Sox last year, but threw well in AAA Pawtucket and gives the Phils another viable option if (when) the Lannan/Kendrick duo struggle. Finally, there are reports that the Phils have re-signed Tom Cochran, a 30 year old lefty, who after struggling a bit at the beginning of the 2012 season with injuries, ended up being one of the IronPigs most consistent pitchers last year.
My final prediction for the Opening Day rotation: 1. Pettibone; 2. Martin; 3. CLoyd; 4. Cook; 5. Cochran. I suspect Bass comes down with a early turf toe ailment that will place him on the DL until another body is needed in the rotation.